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Common Defense Arguments in Cases of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children


As professionals in the field of child crimes investigations, it is crucial to be aware of the common defense arguments made by offenders accused of online sexual exploitation of children and their defense attorneys. By understanding these arguments, investigators and prosecutors can be better prepared to counter them in court and hold offenders accountable for their actions.


Excuse – “I didn’t know she was a child”:


One of the most common defense arguments made in cases of online sexual exploitation of children is that the accused individual did not know the victim was a child. Offenders and their attorneys may argue that they believed the victim was an adult or that they were deceived into believing the victim was of legal age. They may also claim that they were not aware of the age of the victim due to misrepresentations made by the victim or others.


One way investigators and prosecutors can prove that the offender knew the victim was a child is by presenting evidence of explicit language or requests for sexually explicit material that are commonly associated with children. In some cases, the offender may have communicated with the victim using social media accounts or profiles that clearly identify them as a child. Investigators can also use forensic analysis of electronic devices to establish that the offender was aware of the victim's age.


Additionally, prosecutors may be able to show that the offender engaged in behaviors that indicate an interest in children, such as accessing child pornography or seeking out chat rooms or forums where children are known to be present.


It is important for investigators and prosecutors to thoroughly investigate the offender's online activities and communications to gather evidence that supports the fact that the offender knew the victim was a child. By presenting this evidence in court, they can rebut the defense argument that the offender was unaware of the victim's age and demonstrate that they knowingly engaged in sexual activity with a minor.


It is also important for investigators to be aware of common tactics used by offenders to conceal their activities, such as using anonymous usernames or encryption technology. By staying up to date on the latest technological developments and working closely with digital forensic experts, investigators can better identify and track online predators, ultimately leading to a stronger case in court.


Excuse – “It was fantasy, not reality”:

Another defense argument is that the accused individual did not intend to engage in sexual activity with a child. Offenders and their attorneys may argue that they were only engaging in role-playing or fantasy and did not intend to actually meet or engage in sexual activity with the child. They may also argue that any explicit language or images were part of a consensual exchange between adults and not meant to involve a child.


Offenders and their attorneys may use the First Amendment protections of free speech to bolster their defense argument that they did not intend to engage in sexual activity with a child. They may argue that any explicit language or images were part of a consensual exchange between adults and not meant to involve a child.


This defense strategy relies on the concept that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, including the right to engage in sexually explicit speech or expression. However, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has held that certain types of speech, such as obscenity and child pornography, are not protected under the First Amendment.


Prosecutors and law enforcement officials must carefully balance the rights of the accused with the protection of children from sexual exploitation. While the First Amendment does protect freedom of speech, it does not protect speech or expression that involves the sexual exploitation of children.


Furthermore, the argument that explicit language or images were part of a consensual exchange between adults may not hold up in court if it can be proven that the offender believed they were communicating with a child. Under federal law, it is illegal to use the internet to knowingly attempt to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a child to engage in sexual activity.


In cases of online sexual exploitation of children, it is important for investigators to thoroughly analyze all communication and gather evidence to prove that the offender knew they were communicating with a child and intended to engage in sexual activity with them. Prosecutors may also call on expert witnesses, such as forensic psychologists, to testify about the offender's intent and behavior.


Excuse – “That dirty police officer tricked me into doing something illegal”:

A common defense argument in cases of online sexual exploitation of children is entrapment. Offenders and their attorneys may argue that law enforcement officials set up the situation to catch the offender, using tactics such as undercover agents or fake profiles to lure the offender into engaging in illegal activity. They may also argue that law enforcement officials coerced the offender into engaging in sexual activity with a child.


To defeat the defense argument of entrapment, investigators and prosecutors can demonstrate that the accused individual was already predisposed to engage in illegal activity with a child. This can be done by reviewing the suspect's online activity, including their search history, social media posts, and communications with others. Additionally, investigators may have evidence of previous similar activities, such as chats or images with other minors.


Investigators can also establish that the accused individual was not coerced into the illegal activity. This can be done by reviewing the communications between the accused individual and the undercover officer or fake profile and demonstrating that the accused individual was the one who initiated the conversation or suggested engaging in sexual activity with a child. If the accused individual made repeated attempts to contact the undercover officer or fake profile despite being rebuffed or told that the victim was underage, this can also demonstrate that the individual was not coerced.


Furthermore, the investigation can also demonstrate that the accused individual had a pattern of seeking out minors online, or that they had previously engaged in similar illegal activities. This can be done by reviewing the accused individual's social media accounts, chat logs, and search history.


Prosecutors can also demonstrate that the law enforcement officials did not overstep their bounds or coerce the accused individual. This can be done by presenting evidence of the law enforcement officials' conduct during the investigation, such as recordings of the interactions between the accused individual and law enforcement officials or witness testimony from law enforcement officials involved in the investigation.


Excuse – “That police officer violated my rights”:

Another defense argument is that the evidence was obtained illegally or improperly. Offenders and their attorneys may argue that law enforcement officials violated the offender's rights when obtaining evidence, such as by conducting illegal searches or seizures. They may also argue that the evidence was obtained through entrapment or coercion and should therefore be inadmissible in court.


To eliminate the issue of evidence being obtained illegally or improperly, investigators and prosecutors must ensure that all evidence is obtained through legal means and in accordance with proper investigative practices. This includes obtaining search warrants when necessary, following proper procedures for conducting interviews and interrogations, and ensuring that all evidence is properly collected, documented, and preserved.


Investigators should also ensure that they are aware of and follow all applicable laws and regulations governing the use of electronic surveillance, such as wiretapping and monitoring online communications. This includes obtaining the proper legal authorization before engaging in any such surveillance activities.


In addition, investigators should be aware of and follow all applicable rules of evidence and ensure that all evidence is properly authenticated, documented, and presented in court in accordance with these rules.


By following these proper investigative practices, investigators and prosecutors can help to ensure that all evidence obtained is admissible in court and that the defendant's rights are protected throughout the investigative and prosecution process.


Excuse – “It wasn’t me! I was hacked!”:

A final defense argument in cases of online sexual exploitation of children is that the accused individual was the victim of a cyber-attack or hacking. Offenders and their attorneys may argue that their online accounts were compromised and that someone else engaged in illegal activity using their identity.


To defeat the defense argument of a cyber-attack or hacking in cases of online sexual exploitation of children, investigators and prosecutors can take the following steps:


1. Conduct a thorough investigation of the accused individual's online activity: Investigators should examine the accused individual's online activity to determine whether there is evidence of illegal activity. They should also examine the accused individual's devices to determine whether there is evidence of hacking or a cyber-attack.

2. Gather digital evidence: Investigators should collect digital evidence, including IP addresses, timestamps, and chat logs, to demonstrate that the accused individual was actively engaging in illegal activity at the time of the offense.

3. Show that the accused individual had control over their online accounts: Prosecutors can argue that the accused individual had control over their online accounts and therefore should be held responsible for any illegal activity that occurred on those accounts.

4. Present expert testimony: Prosecutors can present expert testimony from digital forensics experts to explain how cyber-attacks and hacking work, and to demonstrate that there is no evidence to support the defense argument.

5. Use circumstantial evidence: Prosecutors can use circumstantial evidence, such as the accused individual's knowledge of the victim's age or their explicit language, to demonstrate that the accused individual was responsible for the illegal activity.


By taking these steps, investigators and prosecutors can effectively defeat the defense argument of a cyber-attack or hacking in cases of online sexual exploitation of children.


Conclusion:

It is important for investigators and prosecutors to be aware of these common defense arguments and to be prepared to counter them in court. By understanding the tactics used by defense attorneys, child abuse professionals can more effectively hold offenders accountable for their actions and prevent further harm to vulnerable children.


These common defense arguments made by offenders accused of online sexual exploitation of children and their defense attorneys can be challenging to overcome. However, by being aware of these arguments and preparing strategies to counter them, child abuse professionals can more effectively hold offenders accountable for their actions and ensure justice for victims.

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