Ohio Internet Sex Sting Operations
To combat sex offenses such as human sex trafficking, online solicitation of a minor, online prostitution, and other internet sex crimes, Ohio law enforcement frequently conducts undercover sting operations that target suspected offenders. Such operations are known to produce a lot of arrests and grab news headlines. Plus, the sex crime charges accompanying a sting operation carry severe penalties and life-changing consequences.
The problem is that internet sex sting operations are legally problematic and regularly result in unnecessary criminal charges for unwitting targets.
But there are ways to address sexual offense allegations after a sting operation. If you were ensnared in a sex string operation in Franklin County, Ohio, contact a Columbus internet sting attorney at Luftman, Heck & Associates. We’ll explain what you’re facing and how to discretely pursue a dismissal or reduction.
Call (614) 500-3836 for a free consultation.
What’s a Sex Sting Operation?
During an internet sex sting, the police create an opportunity for someone to commit a sex crime. For example, a police officer may pretend to be a minor on a social media app, chat room, or message board and try to interact with adults for sex.
In their exchange, the officer will indicate they are underage but will ultimately propose sending explicit materials or meeting in person to engage in a sex act. When the target of the sex sting arrives or sends the illicit materials, officers will usually be there to make an arrest.
Internet Sex Sting Operation Charges
While no sexual contact occurs in an internet sex sting operation, that doesn’t mean no crime is committed. Charges associated with internet sex stings that can be brought under Ohio law include:
- Online Solicitation of a Minor/ Importuning
- Child Pornography
- Human Trafficking
- Attempted Unlawful Sexual Contact with a Minor
- Disseminating Harmful Material to Juveniles
- Compelling Prostitution
The charges you’ll face after an Ohio internet sex sting largely depend on the details involved and your conversations with the undercover officer. For instance, you can face multiple charges based on your interactions, and charges are possible even if you never physically met up with the alleged minor.
Penalties & Consequences
The charges listed are serious, with the potential for time behind bars, fines, and possible inclusion on the sex offender registration list. Ultimately, the severity of the penalties you or a loved one may be dealing with after an internet sting operation largely depends on the unique circumstances involved and whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor. But if you’re convicted, you face the following:
- Fourth-degree misdemeanor: Up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250
- Third-degree misdemeanor: Up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $500
- Second-degree misdemeanor: Up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750
- First-degree misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000
- Fifth-degree felony: Up to 12 months in prison and a fine up to $2,500
- Fourth-degree felony: Up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $5,000
- Third-degree felony: Up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- Second-degree felony: Up to 8 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000
- First-degree felony: Up to 11 years in prison, unless longer imprisonment is allowed by a specific statute, and a fine up to $20,000
In addition to criminal penalties, even being named in a sex sting investigation can have collateral consequences that will impact your job, family, and reputation. These are not the type of allegations you should try to handle yourself. It’s best to consult a defense lawyer to review the details and your options.
These cases often rely on weak evidence and faulty police strategies. Getting your charges dismissed, reduced, or building a strong defense to prove your innocence may be possible.
Are Internet Sex Sting Operations Entrapment?
When it comes to internet sex stings, a lot depends on what you said to the undercover officer and your intent. Sadly, because so much is open to interpretation in an internet sting case, many unwitting adults are charged despite lacking the intent to engage in sexual contact with a minor or prostitution.
In many cases, those charged in an internet sex string operation want to raise an entrapment defense.
What Is Entrapment?
Entrapment is an affirmative legal defense that suggests the defendant only engaged in the conduct in question because the government coerced them to do so.
While entrapment is often challenging to prove, 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 to prosecute.” State v. Doran, 5 Ohio St.3d 187.
A jury may consider the following in a case involving possible entrapment:
- Prior involvement in the same criminal activity.
- The accused’s readiness and ease of participation.
- The accused’s knowledge of illegal activity in the area.
- The accused’s access to contraband and related materials.
- The accused’s willingness to get involved.
The most critical element of entrapment is establishing that the accused would not have committed the offense if not for the conduct and tactics used by law enforcement. This often comes down to the words and phrasing used by police, how intensely you were pursued, and how you were targeted.
Arrested in a Sting? Speak to a Lawyer First.
Internet stings in Columbus may look good on the local news and have good intentions, but that doesn’t mean you should have your rights violated or be pressured into a sex crime conviction.
If you or a loved one were part of a recent internet sex sting and are now accused of a crime, don’t try to handle things yourself by explaining your intentions or making a statement in hopes of making things go away quickly. These cases are best handled by an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows what’s required by law enforcement and where to look for mistakes.
In Columbus, Contact LHA Today
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we will thoroughly investigate the accusations against you and gather evidence that supports your defense. We have represented many individuals charged with sex offenses stemming from sting operations and have achieved successful, discreet outcomes. We are here for you whether you want to negotiate a plea or seek an acquittal at trial.
Call LHA today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential case evaluation.