Local police officers posing as teenagers on a popular dating app recently arrested four men in St. Petersburg on various charges, alleging they had attempted to arrange sexual contact with what they believed were minors.
The men were arrested after communicating with undercover officers through Grindr, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department. They were charged with a range of crimes, from promotion of a sexual performance by a child to computer sex crimes, prostitution, trafficking and child neglect.
One man allegedly tried to entice what he believed to be a 14-year-old boy to send him lurid photos online, according to the police. Another allegedly left three small children at home alone in order to meet what he believed was a 14-year-old girl for sex at a motel.
The four men did not appear to know each other, but were swept up as part of the same undercover sting operation.
Online dating and sex apps like Grindr and others are a hot spot for potential predators, law enforcement officers say. Cops often use the apps to lure in sex offenders by posing as underage children.
Last year, police officers in Sarasota County arrested 25 men who they say used dating apps to try to arrange sex with minors.
These busts can raise difficult legal questions, including accusations of entrapment by people who are arrested. Florida law generally bans cops from trying to induce someone into committing a crime in situations where that person would not have otherwise engaged in the criminal offense.
A person arguing that he or she was entrapped generally has to prove that a police officer encouraged the person to commit a crime in a way that substantially increased the chances it would occur. You also have to show that you were not predisposed to commit the crime anyway.
The entrapment defense often comes with a number of legal and factual issues based on the specific circumstances of the situation. That’s why it is important to consult a Tampa sex crimes attorney.
If you or a loved one has been charged with—or is even suspected of—a sex crime in Florida, it’s vital that you seek the assistance of a seasoned Tampa sex crimes attorney.
A lawyer can help build the strongest possible defense in the case. The earlier that you seek legal advice, the better chance you have of avoiding a conviction or reducing the charges.
At Whittel & Melton, we represent clients throughout the Sunshine State who have been charged with a wide variety of offenses, including sexual assault, rape and child pornography. Our attorneys work tirelessly to fight these charges head on.
We have offices throughout the state, including in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Pensacola. Contact us online or call (866) 608-5529 for a free evaluation.
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