Entrapment is a defense raised in cases where law enforcement entices someone into committing a crime they would otherwise not commit.
One Florida man has recently raised the entrapment defense after being accused of soliciting sex with a child over the computer. The man responded to an online advertisement asking for a male companion for a woman in her 40s. The man claims he thought he was setting up a date with that woman the entire time.
The advertisement and subsequent discussions, however, were all conducted as part of an undercover operation. The police sting was part of a joint operation known as “Operation Tail Feather” between the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sherriff’s Office, which led to a total of 23 arrests.
Conversations recovered by police, prosecutors claim, show that the man discussed the woman’s 11-year-old daughter. The man claims he thought the woman, who was actually working at the behest of law enforcement, was referring to giving a motherly “birds and the bees” type of a talk when she mentioned that she wanted to teach her daughter about sex.
Prosecutors note that a key to avoiding entrapment during a police operation is the predisposition of the accused. For example, in many Internet-based sex crimes, evidence showing the accused visiting certain websites for specific activities could be used to argue predisposition. Legal experts acknowledge that police entrapment can be a very gray area, particularly in these types of cases.
The entrapment defense has been argued successfully in the past. For example, a prosecutor in northern Florida declined to prosecute a young male for delivering marijuana after the police arranged for a very attractive young woman to ask him to obtain some. The facts of the case led the prosecutor to believe the police led him to commit the crime.
While the above-described sex crimes case is still pending, the possibility of police entrapment in this case will likely take center stage, as similar undercover operations continue to play out across Florida.