For the past two months, detectives from the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division have been pouring much time and effort into long-term investigations that have recently culminated into 41 arrests of men, women and juveniles that filled the Highlands County Jail Friday evening.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Corrections Probation and Parole, and Florida Department of Juvenile Justice teams participated in cases ranging from large-scale narcotics sales and trafficking, to neglect of a child, to grand theft and burglaries as well as lewd and lascivious battery, and even serious weapons charges.
According to Tampa Bay Online, the initiative entailed unannounced compliance checks with sex offenders and predators that are currently monitored by the Department of Corrections.
This undertaking also netted 68 warrants for 163 felony charges from the investigations, 156 juveniles placed under court-imposed curfews and 31 sexual offenders with court sanctions.
By the end of the joint sting, police supposedly seized two vehicles, three firearms, 298.6 grams of marijuana, 288 hydrocodone pills totaling 130.1 grams, 110 Ecstasy pills totaling 35.7 grams, 50 Alprazolam pills totaling 13.2 grams, 4.8 grams of cocaine and $430.
As the above story shows, sting operations cover a varied body of crimes, and because of this, numerous techniques can be implemented by investigators depending on the operations immediate or long-term objective. While some exceptions may apply, generally speaking, most sting operations contain four basic elements:
1. An opportunity or chance for a crime to be committed. This opening is usually crafted or manipulated by officers.
2. Targets a likely offender for the crime at hand, or even an entire group.
3. Some form of trickery, either through an undercover officer or an informant.
4. A climactic effect where incriminating evidence is revealed that ends the operation and yields arrests.
The most defining feature related to undercover stings is when the operation ends with a “caught you” moment and police reveal themselves and catch the offender in the act of committing a crime set up by investigators that is usually caught on video or audio recording devices. The main tactic of these undercover schemes conducted by police is to entice a targeted offender with an opportunity to commit a crime, and then catch them in the act. The person who succumbs to the chance created by police is considered a “willing” offender, even though police construct these situations clearly out of deception.
Most sting operations use a variety of deception techniques to take down targeted possible offenders. A variation of props, techniques and facilitators can be used in an undercover sting such as disguises, false storefronts, professional informers, false advertisements, decoy cars, surveillance and surrogates. Whatever the tactic chosen by cops, sting operations are executed for two general purposes: investigation and to reduce and prevent certain crimes. Most sting operations conducted for investigation purposes are lengthy and are aimed at uncovering extensive fraudulent behavior that involves numerous people. Sting operations that target specific crimes, are more common because they are cheaper to implement and are usually conducted for a set amount of time. It is important to note that many sting operations involve government and non-government agencies in addition to the sheriff’s office. It is not uncommon for federal, state and international organizations to be involved in a local sting, as well as community and business organizations.
If you have been arrested by an undercover officer, you may be wondering if this could be entrapment. The state of Florida provides certain affirmative defenses to those accused of criminal activity. Entrapment can definitely be one of those defenses, and alleges that police officers are responsible for the crime because their behavior caused the offender to commit an illegal act. In order for entrapment to be used as a defense, the accused must admit that they committed the crime they are charged with. The defendant must show that they were swayed by the officer to commit the crime, and then it is up to the prosecution to show whether or not the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime. Entrapment is generally an issue in all undercover operations, including cases involving:
• Online Solicitation of a Minor: Undercover police officers will pose as a child on the Internet in hopes of arranging a meeting for a sexual encounter. If the defendant actually shows up to the meeting, he or she could face a minimum of 25 years in prison.
• Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver: This usually involves an undercover cop purchasing drugs from the defendant.
• Prostitution: This can entail undercover officials posing as prostitutes and offering sexual favors in exchange for money. Some jurisdictions purchase houses for the sole purpose of conducting prostitution stings.
• File Sharing: Investigators can trace the source of pornography, particularly child porn and reveal its source. If a defendant is believed to have shared child porn via the Internet, a case can be brought against them and a search warrant can be gathered to search their home and seize their computer.
The Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand how frightening an arrest from a police sting can be. It is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you think you are under investigation or immediately following your arrest. There could be time after an investigation to keep charges from being filed. Whether you are facing drug trafficking charges to auto theft and burglary, our attorneys can work with any investigating agency involved in your case to prevent the filing of charges. This could be the difference between a criminal record and the life-altering consequences that go hand in hand with a conviction.
If you or someone you love was arrested in a police sting involving any type of criminal behavior throughout the state of Florida, contact the Florida Statewide Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Law Offices of Whittel & Melton, LLC online or by calling our firm toll-free at 1-866-608-5529.
Florida consultations can be made based on allegations in the following Florida communities: Miami, Naples, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Zephyrhills, Lutz, Wesley Chapel, New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Brooksville, Dade City, Leesburg, The Villages, Bushnell, Inverness, Orlando, Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Bartow, Tavares, Lakeland, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton.