How far should the government go to catch law breakers? Its always surprising to Clearwater criminal defense attorneys that the government would ever deem it necessary to violate the very criminal laws it seeks to enforce. Yet law enforcement officers seem as incapable of not violating laws as do the criminals they seek.
|FBI: Most Wanted?|
Recent press reports note that the FBI has begun using tactics often employed in drug cases to find those who seek to possess child pornography. After gaining control of a bulletin board that distributed child pornography the FBI continued to run the the webpage for two weeks.
During that two week period the FBI effectively delivered thousands of child pornography images later using the information gained from the deliveries to obtain search warrants from federal judges.
Since those who participated in the ongoing activities of the bulletin board likely did so of their own accord it’s unlikely that the FBI could successfully be accused in Federal criminal court in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa of setting these people up or entrapping them.
For an entrapment defense to be successful it’s necessary for the Defense to establish that the unlawful act would not have been something the Defendant would have done but for Government inducement. Even with Government inducement an entrapment defense fails if there’s a finding of a predisposition to commit the crime. Was the Defendant a wary innocent or an unwary criminal readily using the opportunity to commit the crime?
The Florida sentencing guidelines as well as the Federal sentencing guidelines prescribe harsh punishment for sex offenders in possession of child pornography despite there being no actual victim contact often resulting in more significant sentences than for those who have actually molested children. Clearly the harshest punishments should be aimed at those who harm children the most. Yet Judges often do not have sufficient discretion to give fair sentences in child pornography cases.
Further, the Government has begun pursuing child pornography cases even where there is no proof of outlawed images on a computer arguing to Federal Judges that the mere hash value Tag is sufficient as an indicator of a violation of the law.
Federal criminal defense lawyers agree that protecting children is a laudable goal for the FBI, but being a party to the distribution of child pornography only tarnishes the respect for the FBI and respect for the law.