There are several factual scenarios that can lead to an allegation of enticement. The primary one is where someone is on the internet and ends up chatting online with someone who is most likely an undercover police officer. The charges that arise normally arise are out of a conversation, that a person has discussed having sex with an underage person.
With that said, however, there are also cases where the government alleges that someone is engaged in either online, phone, or text conversations with an actual minor which can often also lead to charges of child enticement.
The most common way is where someone ends up chatting online with an undercover police officer. The undercover office usually poses as someone who is older and who has access to a minor. Normally, the undercover officer is not posing as a minor him or herself.
The federal charges can be the result of a conversation. The statute, which is 18 USC 2422B, prohibits someone who coerces or attempts to coerce, persuade, induce, or entice a minor to engage in prohibited sexual activity. The statute itself prohibits the conversation or what will typically be a conversation if it would be a form of persuasion or coercion or enticement. A lot of times, people get arrested when they show up to perform a sexual encounter.
The actual act of showing up or traveling may form the basis of a different charge but it is not necessary to sustain a charge of indictment. The conversation itself can lead it right to the charge.
For it to be a federal crime, the traveling must fall under federal law which means the traveling has to be interstate (from one state to another) and that forms the basis of a different charge, which is traveling with the intent to engage in a prohibited sexual activity. It’s a different charge from child enticement. In many cases, it’s an easier charge to prove because you don’t have to prove the enticement, the persuasion, the coercion, the inducement, or the enticement, you only have to prove travel with the intent to engage in the activity which is an easier standard for the government.
Where it gets interesting and complicated is where the person has not traveled between one state and another. Often the government will charge someone under the tougher enticement standard because they don’t have to travel across state lines. For example, someone engages in a conversation online with undercover, they end up traveling form one place in the District of Columbia to another, and they get arrested. Then, the government will also charge them with enticement because they can’t prove the interstate travel.
The key to these cases is the perceived language that is used in the online conversation. The other issue that comes up a lot is that, typically, the undercover officer is not pretending to be a minor. The undercover officer is pretending to be someone who has access to a minor, whether it be a parent, a friend, or a confident of the minor.
If a minor is induced, coerced, or enticed it has to be done through that third party, which is a new case called an intermediary case because although the undercover who’s playing the adult has access to the minor, the enticement, the persuasion, the coercion, or the inducement has still to be directed at the minor.
The intermediary cases are interesting because the courts have held that you still need that persuasion, inducement, coercion, or enticement that has to be directed at the minor. It can’t be directed at the intermediary. Often what undercover officers will do is they will try and shake the conversation or get the conversation to that point to try and get the target of the investigation to direct something towards the fictitious child.
Attempt to commit child enticement is definitely the more common of these two charges. Conspiracy to entice a child is more uncommon because typically these are one-on-one encounters. Conspiracy would require another person to be involved who is not the undercover, and thus, conspiracy is not usually part of the equation.
The attempt adds a level of complexity because in these cases the “attempt” crime would be the attempt to persuade to induce, to entice, or to coerce a minor. Specifically, the definition would be you’re attempting to overbear the will of the minor and get them to engage in the sexual activity.
In order for there to be “attempt,” the court has said that it’s not just getting online, or just getting online and talking to minor. It’s got to be more than that, however different courts have interpreted that in different ways.
Adding even more complexity to the equation is the fact that you can be facing attempt charges in certain situations where there is only a fictitious child.
You can still be charged from outside the United States if you are making arrangements. There is what is called a sexual tourism charge you can be charged with if you go outside the United States to engage in prohibited sexual activity. That’s a whole separate charge. You can also be charged if you have conversations outside the United States with someone inside the United States and that could potentially lead to a charge or if you’re inside the United States and have a conversation with someone outside the United States that can lead to a charge as well.