Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Question of the Day Part the Second: IS an "Adult Pretending to be a Child Still an Adult"????

Solon's favorite blogger over at TalkLeft, TChris, offered up this fascinating post on Sunday, and Harrogate has had it rolling around in the back quadrant of his teeming brain ever since.

The issue before us, Situationers, is succinctly articulated by TChris

A troubling trend that vexes those of us who believe the police should prevent or solve crimes, not manufacture them, is the detective sitting in a chat room posing as a 15 year old waiting to engage in salacious conversation with an adult. Courts have typically held that an adult who travels to meet the "15 year old" for a sexual encounter can be charged with attempted sexual assault of a minor, even though the defendant never chatted with a minor and no actual minor was ever at risk.

TChris's own position on this issue is compelling:

Whether a mistaken belief about a chatter's age (when the belief is induced by a lying law enforcement officer) should lead to any form of criminal liability is questionable. Putting that question aside, it is reasonable to recognize, as Indiana now does (at least until the legislature closes this "loophole"), that people who don't put a child at risk deserve greater leniency than those who do.

It is of course no surprise that he or Jerlayn would take this stance, as standing up for defendants' and/or criminals' rights (unfortunately for some commenters who tried to morph it into a mouthpiece for a particular brand of feminism) is the true backbone of TalkLeft.

But in addition to the Legal Question, there is also a Rhetorical Situation here that needs to be examined. (Oxymoron, for example, continues to argue that when you are watching a football game on television, that the colored first down line is actually on the field. Of course, Oxymoron also once argued that Styx was a great band, so you have to be careful with Oxymoron.)

So, likely all of us on this Board dislike the idea of Entrapment. But will anyone here straight-up say that detectives should stop trolling for "pedophiles" in this manner? Or conversely, will anyone say straight up that the detective posing as a fifteen year old (what if the detective poses as an 8 year-old) is doing the right thing, indeed, protecting children?

Harrogate will leave the light on for you.


MET said...

I actually don't have a problem with this kind of legal work. The law as it stands addresses the sticky legal of intent in more than one way. We let the prosecution deal with trying to prove intent all the time. It seems to me that if a grown-up's intent was to meet a child then the age of the "child" doesn't really make that much difference. Now, if you want to take up the matter of ever trying to prove intent that's a whole other ball of wax. But as long as that is part of the legal system, entrapment doesn't seem that out of the quesiton.

The Roof Almighty said...

My problem is that I have a fetish for undercover-police-who-role-play.

Doesn't matter as what, I just want to bring them flowers and lollipops.

Actually, my real problem is that I don't even feel comfortable googling for the statistics of those caught in these stings who actually serve time ("child molesting" + "get off").

I remember reading an article some time back suggesting that most of them get off--or, at the very least, that the sting is used as an excuse to get a warrant to search the accused's property. I don't have as big a problem with that.

Where I'm hazy is whether or not this article was only on "To Catch a Predator" or the entire sting set-up.

solon said...

First, Oxymoron, even the announcers say that the football players cannot see the line on the field. Why would you not trusts them, besides the fact they rarely call the correct play most of the time.

Rhetorically, the police engage in an act of heresthtics: framing the situation to receive a desired result. In other areas of law (e.g. drugs) the police do this all of the time.

Where I think the problem is develops at the connection of using the law to change morality in society and human nature, two culturally powerful narratives, if we concede that there is such a thing as human nature. We are only fifty or sixty years from allowing adults to legally marry teenagers. In many civilizations throughout history, there are many occurrences of an adult taking on a teenage partner (Ancient Greece is the perfect example; also, the number of high school teacher, high school student affairs; Jerry Lee Lewis and his "Great Balls of Fire" that married his teenage cousin; Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," the Graduate, and almost every other movie during the 1980s.)

We see that the law wants to end the practice of adults with teenagers but we hit that awkward subject between age and the mental ability to make a reasoned judgment, which our previous thread discussed this is quite a silly task. However, the law wants to change social morality by developing a new argument (sexual relations between teenagers and adults is bad) though this type of relationship was both common and legal for the past four thousand years.

As stated early, this new law needs to change previous cultural beliefs (it is okay for people of different ages to engage in sexual relations, especially if it enhances the social prestige of the younger, especially to peer groups. (And this has very little to do about having the maturity to handle an adult relationship as most adults do not have the maturity to handle adult relationships on a daily basis).

And this law contradicts human nature: the biological sex drive.

But law enforcement knows this and it is good for business. In fact, the law can show results as, if it is do to cultural narratives and human nature, there is always someone out there to arrest. And, you can sell your services to MSNBC, who will record it and air it over and over and over (until someone dies) because there are people who watch the train wreck, understanding nothing about human history or human nature but realizing that the law says this is wrong....

But we know that many people are entertained by it all...