In internet sting operations, a police officer pretends to be a minor and seeks to interact with adults online for the purposes of sex.
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When someone responds, the officer will state that he or she is a minor. Once the conversation turns to sex, the officer will attempt to convince the person to send sexually explicit photos or agree to meet the “child” for the purpose of having sex.
Our Georgia sex crime defense attorneys have years of experience defending sex crime cases in Georgia and know exactly what evidence will be persuasive to prosecutors and how to demonstrate that you had no illicit intent.
Many internet stings originate with police officers placing ads or profiles on websites known for enabling sexual relationships or on dating websites and apps. The ads and profiles almost never specifically state that a minor is involved and frequently contain pictures of someone who is actually an adult.
Georgia sting operations are primarily conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
This is a federally funded task force made up of law enforcement officers from throughout the state. One of the major issues with the task force is thatee the amount of federal funding it receives is, in part, determined by the number of arrests the task force makes from sting operations. This gives officers an incentive to make as many arrests as possible, which often results in aggressive police tactics. In turn, these aggressive tactics lead to the arrests of innocent people.
When an arrest is made as a result of a Georgia internet sting operation, prosecutors will typically charge an individual with a violation of the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act (O.C.G.A. §16-12-100.2). This statute provides that it is unlawful for any person intentionally or willfully to utilize any form of online service or electronic communication to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice someone believed by such person to be under the age of 16, to commit any sexual act.
In some cases, prosecutors may also charge an individual with criminal attempt to commit the offense of child molestation. In this situation, it must be shown that the defendant had the specific intent to commit the crime of child molestation and performed an act constituting a substantial step toward the commission of that crime. The offense of criminal attempt can be prosecuted in Georgia despite the fact that the completed offense would have been an impossibility (since no child was actually involved).
Unfortunately, internet sting operations often result in the arrest of law-abiding adults who were never interested in meeting or having sex with children. When this happens, it can give rise to the defense of entrapment.
In Georgia, a person is not guilty of a crime if, by entrapment, his or her conduct is induced or solicited by the police. To constitute entrapment, it must be shown that:
At trial, the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not entrapped.
The most critical element of the entrapment defense is establishing that the person would not have committed the crime but for the conduct of the police.
In these cases, our job is to show that our client was not predisposed to engaging in sexual conduct with children, but that the conduct of the police officer induced him to agree to do so.
Therefore, our most critical function as attorneys in defending internet sting cases is to show that our client would never have agreed to meet a child if it wasn’t for the manner in which thie internet sting operation was conducted. To prove this, we will first gather evidence of our client’s background and the fact that he had never engaged in this type of conduct in the past. We will speak with as many people as possible who can attest to our client’s character traits and lack of any sexually deviant behavior. This may include family members, close friends, and current or previous romantic or sexual partners. We will often hire a computer forensic expert to examine our client’s computers, cell phones, and other devices to show that he neither communicated with children online nor possessed child pornography in the past. We will also have our client undergo a psychosexual evaluation to show that he does not have any signs of pedophilia or a sexual interest in children.
We will also focus on the officers’ conduct during the operation, including the circumstances of the initial contact with the officers, the tone of the conversation, and the language used. This allows us to establish:
I sought out the best attorney in this field because my defense hinged on having someone with deep knowledge of computer and sex offense associated crimes.
Entrapment is not the only defense to charges arising from online sting operations.
Often times, a person simply does not believe that this was a child. A person may have believed that this was an adult role-playing and just pretending to be a child. Typically, other than the officer stating that he or she is 14 years old, the remaining evidence is simply inconsistent with that being the case. The pictures used by the police are often those of adults, the manner of speaking and the language used is usually much more mature than that of a child, the text communications usually lack the abbreviations and emojis that children or teens would use, and when phone calls are conducted, the person speaking with the defendant is usually one of the adult officers.
Many of our clients have reported that judging by the pictures used, the tone of the conversation and texts, and the voice of the person on the phone, it was obvious to them that this was not a child. In order to convict someone as a result of an internet sting operation, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant believed he was communicating with someone under the age of 16.
Over the years, we have helped many adults charged with sex crimes related to online activity.
Our client was 26 years old and just about to graduate from Georgia Tech. He was arrested in an internet sting operation and indicted in federal court for communicating online with a police officer who was pretending to be a 14-year-old girl. Our client responded to an ad on Backpage.com looking for a prostitute. The ad was created by the police and it contained pictures of a 26-year-old GBI agent. When our client asked for a selfie, the agent sent a picture of herself, which showed a woman in her 20s. Our client, not believing the woman was 14 years old based on the photos, went to meet with her.
At trial, we established that our client had no desire or intention to meet with a 14-year-old girl and clearly did not believe the agent was 14 when he went to meet her. Our client was acquitted.
Read our results page to learn more about how we have successfully defended other clients in internet sting cases across Georgia.