Is the television show 'To catch a predator' legally justified or is it entrapment.
I've been asked this question a number of times and after reviewing a number of segments I feel I can now address this question. Is this show entrapping people or is it a legal and fair way for law enforcement to jail potential felons?
Well lets look at the two sides. First, the side that says arrest them!
The people that feel this way says that the suspect is fully aware before hand that he's visiting or speaking over the internet with a minor about sex... a clear violation of the law. They further say that if the "set up" wasn't performed, this suspect would have violated a child. My opinion.... they make a good point, especially legally speaking.
The other side says, he didn't actually carry out the crime. Sure they say, he might have known it was a minor and some will even say that he might have done the act without this intervention, but the act wasn't ACTUALLY carried out. Or in other words, the crime wasn't committed. My opinion....they make a good point also.
Here is the way it is from a law enforcement standard:
He ACTUALLY broke the law when he entered the residence. First, probable cause ( see my other articles on this subject ) to arrest him was first relevant when he spoke knowingly with a minor about sex. This is the point that hurts him. It's not that he "chats" with a minor that hurts him, it's the sexually spoken content with a minor. If there was no sexual discussions there is no intent to commit a crime, at least not clear intent of a sexual crime. So my answer is, the arrest is valid based on the law.
Now having said that, here is my problem. It is the arrest of the FEW who arrived at the house, parked for a few minutes, and then leave. Can not a person have original intent but changed their minds? Is it really necessary to arrest him? In other words, can we be given the chance to repent? I'm not speaking of the ones that while driving up to the residence observes an officer arresting a subject and then leaves. Or a subject who feels something is wrong and feels he might be set up. I'm speaking about true repentance. How many of you have thought of committing a crime but didn't carry it out because of repentance, fear of jail, or for whatever reason.
Yes, the ones that entered the residences broke the law, but I'm willing to keep an open mind about the ones caught in the repentive process. We are all no saints! A sin is a sin. There are no great ones. But according to the law this is not quite the truth. The law does differentiates crimes. This is precisely why a murder charge will always be viewed much more seriously than a manslaughter charge, even though both involve the taking of a human life.
The best policy? Avoid speaking sexually on the internet with ANYONE. You don't know who you're speaking with anyway!
(Please note; The show has since been sued! Please read my article called " NBC's To catch a predator show being sued "...February 13, 2008).