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Can I be arrested for soliciting a minor for sex on-line even if the minor was created by the police?

Answer: Yes, you can, and you'll be charged with attempting to persuade, induce, entice or coerce a minor to engage in prostitution or unlawful sex, a federal crime. Richard Rutgerson was on an internet site favored by prostitutes and clients when he saw a posting of a "sweet, petite, young lady" looking for a "mature gentleman".  The age of the 'young lady' was not posted. The two began communicating, and "Amberly" eventually wrote that she was 15 years old. They agreed to meet at a hotel; when Rutgerson arrived, he was arrested by the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department.


Federal and local police sting operations

There was no "Amberly"; she was a creation of the police. These types of arrests have become a staple of law enforcement in the internet age. Rutgerson stood trial and was convicted by a jury. His entrapment defense was rejected because they found he was not induced to commit the crime and was predisposed to meet "Amberly". On appeal, the Court found that the offer to pay money for sex with a minor "qualifies as sufficient inducement".

This is a troublesome decision, because Rutgerson was induced to commit this crime by a fiction created by the police to ensnare him. And what about the defense of impossibility? While this was not raised, it was virtually impossible for this crime to occur, becuase there was no "Amberly".

Lessons learned

While I don't endorse this type of behavior, expect no sympathy from a jury, nor any court rulings to go your way for trying to meet and have sex with a minor, even if the minor doesn't exist. If you happen to see a posting on-line by an underage girl looking for a "mature gentleman" or older man, chances are it's the police trying to make an easy arrest.

These types of "gotch" operations can be extensive

Most people charged with enticing or coercing a minor to engage in prostitution or unlawful sex online are only caught because of a sting operation set up by federal investigators.

In October of 2015, in fact, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported that a six-day joint state and federal sting investigation resulted in 16 men charged with use of the Internet to solicit minors for sex. In each case, the investigators established an online connection in a chat room forum. Charges were filed only after the suspects lured their female and male juvenile victims to an specific location for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. 

Will your attorney have the experience to handle complex cases?

Cases involving Internet solicitation are complex and require an in-depth understanding of how sting operations must be conducted in order to stand up in federal court. Call attorney Landes Julien to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Jackson.

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