How Has the Internet Affected Sex Crime Probes & Criminal Charges?

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

Although the internet has a long history of being neglected as a primary platform for law enforcement data collection, it’s becoming more and more impactful in the investigation of sex crimes.

Law enforcement agencies are slowly discovering the opportunities it offers in combating sex crimes, and that’s why undercover investigators are increasingly relying on it to conduct their operations aimed at apprehending the offenders. With this article, you’ll learn exactly how the internet is affecting sex crimes probes and criminal charges and what that might mean for your case.


Internet as the Cause of Sex Crimes Proliferation

As internet use grows each day, the prevalence of online sex crime cases is increasing quickly. Investigators understand well that sex criminals are using the internet to trade or share information, conceal their identity or assume a different identity, coordinate meetings, identify and gather data on sex victims, and so forth.

A good example of these crimes is child pornography, which many experts have identified as one of the fastest-growing digital industries. It, therefore, makes sense why the investigators are going online to conduct these sex crimes probes. However, not all agree with these methods.


The Internet as a Critical Investigation Tool & Its Questionable Ethics

There are many ways by which the internet is assisting law enforcement agencies to conduct sex crimes investigations and issue criminal charges. For instance, the police are increasingly impersonating the common victims of these crimes, such as children, online in a way that would have been deemed impossible a few years ago. A good example is when the investigators pose online as minors to identify and apprehend people looking to have sex with a minor.

In the case of online sex crimes involving the sale of child pornography, the investigators also assume altered identities and other undercover methods online to find and arrest offenders who sell or download child pornography through the internet. Other tactics involve investigators posing online as regular child caretakers looking for adults to give “lessons” to their kids about sex.

Due to the deceptive nature of these tactics, there’s a lot of contention surrounding the ethics of these online investigation methods. Because of this, many alleged offenders have been able to successfully fight back against their criminal charges.


Other Methods Used to Collect Digital Sex Crime Information

Law enforcement agencies have noted that the internet makes it easier for investigators to identify and institute criminal charges against potential offenders before the children become victimized.

Common internet-related sources that have often proved useful include data on servers, workstations, or routers of third parties, like government entities and businesses, and internet service provider records. Usually, the investigators collect digital evidence on computers and removable media after following the activities of potential offenders online. In many cases, such offenders are caught distributing or downloading child pornography, or engaging in related activities.

The internet also tends to lead investigators to vital digital evidence stored in the offenders’ phones, laptops, or cameras. Although they’re often difficult to conduct, these investigations often yield successful results, thanks to the internet. In 2017, for instance, Operation Broken Heart arrested more than 1,000 potential child predators after conducting an extensive online investigation.

Although the internet creates a convenient level of anonymity for sex crimes perpetrators while allowing for social connections and virtual communities to proliferate, it has also proved to be a vital tool for the investigation and successful institution of criminal proceedings against potential offenders.


Contact an Attorney if You’ve Been Targeted by an Internet Sex Crime Probe

The questionable legality and morality of many of these tactics used by law enforcement have created a grey area when these cases are brought to court. If you’re facing criminal charges after being targeted by an online sex crime probe, reach out to the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center to learn more about your defense options. Our expert attorneys are committed to fighting for your rights — call 816-281-5306 to schedule a free consultation today.

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