"Operation Hot Date" in central Florida led to the arrest of dozens of alleged prostitutes and pimps. Polk county police targeted Craigslist adult ads and arrested 34 people from counties throughout central Florida. While we often hear people talk about "entrapment," the entrapment defense is very unlikely to help a defendant whose own Craiglist ad leads to his or her arrest.
As reported by the Miami Herald, the arrests followed responses to adult ads posted on Craigslist. Polk County deputies claim that in response to the ads, they had email and telephone negotiations regarding sex acts for money, and arrested the women and men who arrived at scheduled meet-ups.
The prostitution sweep in Orlando brings up an age old, yet simple question: if police nab you through Craigslist, is it entrapment?
That'll be a negative in almost all cases like "Operation Hot Date" (if the deputies' allegations are true).
The entrapment defense aims to protect defendants where a police officer (or other agent of the government) induced the defendant to commit a crime.
Entrapment defense specifics vary by state, which generally break down into two groups:
- states that require proof that the defendant would not have committed the crime but for the undue persuasion or fraud of law enforcement; and
- states that require proof that law enforcement encouraged the crime in a way that created a risk that people not inclined to commit the crime would commit it.
As described by Orlando criminal defense attorney Zahra Umansky, "the defense of entrapment when its boiled down to common sense from a jury's perspective is that the police engaged in behavior that caused you as a private citizen to commit a criminal act you normally would otherwise not engage in."
Addressing the entrapment question in the context of Craigslist, Umansky continues, "if you are engaging in escort activities and you are posting nude or scantily clad suggestive pictures of yourself on the internet and describe the services that you offer it will be very difficult to convince a judge or jury later on that the police entrapped you or made you commit a crime that you would not normally engage in."
Bottom line: entrapment is almost always a tough defense to prove, but particularly if you put up the Craigslist ad, chances are slim that it was entrapment.
- Arrested via Craigslist: Was it Entrapment? (provided by The Umansky Law Firm)
- Polk County busts Craigslist prostitution ring (Tampa Tribune)
- Sheriff: Craigslist aiding prostitution (UPI)
- A "New Balance"? Craigslist Confirms Plans to Remove 'Erotic Services' Ad Category, Coming Soon 'Adult Services' (FindLaw's Blotter, May 2009)
- "Victimless Sex Offenses" (provided by Cates Hanson Sargeant and Rakestraw PLC)