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Undercover sex crimes sting leads to 20 arrests in Florida

In the age of the internet, many parts of Floridians' lives are contained on a computer. This digital information has somewhat blurred the lines between a person's true identity and their virtual identity. With the anonymity that the internet provides, people sometimes do and say things online that they would never have in a person-to-person interaction. In some cases, this online interaction can lead to criminal charges -- particularly for internet sex crimes.

In a recent Florida case, 20 individuals were arrested after an undercover police sting. In this operation, police pretended to be 12, 13, and 14-year-old boys and engaged in sexually explicit conversations with individuals over the internet. In these conversations, the police convinced some of the individuals to meet with the boys. When they arrived to meet with the children, they were arrested.

The operation was the result of a joint law enforcement effort by the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and other local police departments. 13 of the people who were arrested were from Florida. The others were from neighboring states.

In cases of internet sex crimes, police often arrest first and investigate later. In these cases, it can be difficult to determine a person's intent. Was the person just saying something to a stranger online, or was that person really intending an illegal act? It is often hard to know.

When people are accused of internet sex crimes, it is important that they understand the burden rests with the prosecution. It is the prosecutor's job to prove identity, intent and other elements of these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. Proving these elements can be difficult when a computer is involved -- doubt can often be created about who was really on the computer and about what their intentions were.

Source: AL.com, "Andalusia man arrested in Florida as part of internet sex crimes operation," Kelsey Stein, April 20, 2013

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