In recent years, use of the Internet became prevalent in homes throughout the world. Most people now have access to a personal computer equipped with the Internet. Information is now easier to find than ever before. Unfortunately, even law enforcement officials take advantage of this fact.
You may have heard of, or seen, the show To Catch a Predator on NBC. In these specials, law enforcement works with online groups to pretend they are a minor child chatting on the Internet. In order to make it seem like they are really a child, law enforcement and online group members go as far as choosing a fake name, lying about where they live, using language that a child would use, and sending fake photos of themselves. They are hoping they can find an adult who wants to meet up with the child to have sexual relations. Once they believe they have enough proof against the suspect, they move in for an arrest, often executing a search warrant of the home to seize the computer and look for child pornography.
Sometimes, law enforcement does this type of sting operation on its own. However, resources are limited and law enforcement often lacks training on how to properly lure in the suspects online. Therefore, law enforcement officials work closely with online groups such as Perverted Justice. Groups like these consist mostly of people with no formal law enforcement background, including people who were sexually abused when they were children. Working together benefits law enforcement because they don’t have to expend the time required to catch online predators.
In Michigan, our law enforcement often participates in these sting operations. Perverted Justice workers are sometimes involved in these stings. As the number of convictions of online sexual predators rises, law enforcement is even more motivated to continue finding more and more instances of online predation.
Defense attorneys often raise the issue of entrapment in this type of case. In Michigan, entrapment is defined as the government taking an action to entice you to commit a crime that you would not have otherwise committed. So, when law enforcement officers are spending time on popular websites and chat rooms lying about their identity and enticing people to make advances on a person they believe is a minor, entrapment can be a legitimate defense. The entrapment defense is particularly strong when the defendant has nothing in his background to indicate he has done this type of thing before or would have done so without the encouragement of police. Entrapment by police is illegal, and can be a powerful defense in certain cases. However, information obtained on the computer of the suspect or in his home can be used to demonstrate that he was predisposed to commit the crime. At Kronzek & Cronkright, we understand entrapment law in both the state and federal system. We can assist you with your defense if you are accused of an internet crime.
Online sexual predators can be charged in both state court and federal court for the same crime. That could lead to some stiff penalties for defendants who are found guilty, ranging from long jail sentences, to getting their children taken away, to being placed on the Sex Offender Registry for many years. Being on the Sex Offender Registry makes it extra difficult to secure employment and also determines how close you may live to a school.
At Kronzek & Cronkright, we have experience in defending our clients in both the state courts of Michigan and in the Eastern and Western Federal District Courts.