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Criminal Defense, Internet Crimes, Sex Crimes

Defending Against Internet Sex Sting Operations In Ohio & Entrapment Considerations

Cleveland, Ohio Anti-Human Trafficking Internet Sex Sting Attorney

Law enforcement agencies in Ohio commonly coordinate anti-human trafficking Internet sex sting operations, particularly during the same timeframe as major sporting events and holidays. The offender profile of an Internet sex sting is usually an individual seeking to knowingly engage in sex acts with a minor. Recent stings conducted by various agencies, including the Ohio Internet Children Against Crimes Task Force, have resulted in hundreds of felony charges for Attempted Unlawful Sexual Conduct with A Minor, Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles, Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material, Importuning, Compelling Prostitution, Failure to Comply and Possessing Criminal Tools, amongst others. Convictions of these types of offenses can result in steep sentences and require one to register on Ohio’s sexual offender list for many years.

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What Is An Internet Sex Sting Operation?

Specific to sex-related crimes, the most common sting operations are facilitated by undercover officers posing as minors and/or prostitutes by way of social media applications or Internet-based messaging websites. During the exchange of communications, which are typically sexually explicit, the undercover officer will ultimately propose a time and location to physically meet. When the individual travels to the agreed upon destination, it is very common for law enforcement to be waiting and effectuate an arrest.

While sting operations vary, they tend to have four basic elements:

  1. An opportunity or enticement to commit the crime (which is sometimes improperly created by law enforcement);
  2. Targeted offenders;
  3. Undercover officers, police informants, or other government actors who deceive the target offenders; and,
  4. A climax moment when the operation ends in arrest.

What Is The Entrapment Defense In Ohio?

Entrapment is an affirmative legal defense in which the defendant introduces evidence to negate their liability, despite committing the act. In this scenario, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution proving the crime occurred to the defendant proving the existence of a valid excuse.

In sum, an effective entrapment defense requires the defendant to prove that a government actor coerced, compelled, or induced them into committing a crime that they would have not otherwise committed without the interaction of said government actor. The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that entrapment occurs when “the criminal design originates with [government official(s) who] implant in the mind of an innocent person the [pre]disposition to commit the alleged offense and induce its commission in order to prosecute.” State v. Doran, 5 Ohio St.3d 187 (1983).

The heart of an entrapment defense is the offender’s intent. Some factors that courts weigh when determining the offender’s true intentions are:

  1. Whether the offender has engaged in similar criminal conduct in the past;
  2. Offender’s knowledge of criminal activity in the arresting area;
  3. Offender’s access to the channels of which to engage in the criminal activity;
  4. Nature/extent of police pressure or inducement; and,
  5. How quickly/easily/willingly the offender complied with the suggestion of the police actor.

When considering the degree of undercover police coercion, courts consider the following:

  1. Whether the words of law enforcement constituted a threat;
  2. How intensively the target was pursued; and,
  3. The manner in which law enforcement pursued the target.

It is important to note that courts tend to give much deference to the police, thus rendering an effective entrapment defense difficult.

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Attorney Brad Wolfe represents individuals targeted by Internet sex stings. If you or a loved one have been charged with a Sex Crime, or are under investigation, call (216) 815-6000 to speak with Brad today.
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