General Question

AstroChuck's avatar

What are the men caught on Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator charged with?

Asked by AstroChuck (37428points) September 4th, 2008 from iPhone

Perhaps someone in law enforcement or a legal expert can give me the answer.
We’ve all seen Chris Hansen expose these child predators and are happy to see them get caught. The police then handcuff and lead them away. My question is that since the “13 year-old” girl they’d just been wooing on the Internet, and are now trying to instigate sex with, is really an adult and not a minor, what are they charged with? What law are they actually breaking?
Also, how are they able to give out their names and show their faces? Aren’t they required to sign a document before NBC can broadcast this? I know people love to be on television but I can’t envision anyone caught trying to seduce someone who they think is a minor giving permission to air it.

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27 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

More than bad hair days, I hope. Maybe the show has a website FAQ or forum.

lefteh's avatar

Solicitation of a minor, generally.

As far as permission to air…not sure on that one. Interesting question.

AstroChuck's avatar

But they aren’t really soliciting sex from a minor, they just think they are.

Seesul's avatar

Neither are the prostitutes or customers caught on Cops (especially on the Vegas episodes), but they are charged anyway. I believe intent is enough.

gailcalled's avatar

Slightly off-thread, when my youngest step-son (his father was the Headmaster) was in fifth grade, he was caught at school trying to sell what looked like pot. It turned out to be catnip; so his punishment was only a three-day suspension rather than seven.

scamp's avatar

I looked at the site, but couldn’t find an answer to your question Chuck. As far as getting permission to be on the show, I would imagine that someone stupid enough to solicite a little girl would be stupid enough to sign the forms giving permission. They probably think there is something on film that will help their cause.

marinelife's avatar

Police operations use stings all the time. In Web messaging exchanges, if the cop says he is 13 and the perp says he wants to have sex with “her” and is meeting her for that purpose, that is a crime. The cops are allowed to lie.

AstroChuck's avatar

@Seesul- The prostitutes are soliciting for $$. That’s a crime. The johns are making an offer of $$ for sex. Also a crime.
The men I’m talking about aren’t offering to pay for sex. Since the girl is really an adult I don’t understand what they’ve done wrong legally.. Of course, their intent is disturbing, to say the least. It’s good, of course, to out these sick child predators.

marinelife's avatar

By putting in writing they are coming to have sex with a minor, they are committing a crime, AC.

AstroChuck's avatar

I’m thinking the reason they can show their faces on television might be due to this show being a “news program”’. When you watch your local news you often see arrests and there is no pixelation. Perhaps law provides those reporting the news the right to show faces?

andrew's avatar

My guess (only a guess) is that in the same fell swoop where they put them in the little trailer and say “why? why did you do this? why? why?” they slap a release in the documentation, and the guys are too shocked to really do anything different.

AstroChuck's avatar

I don’t think a release signed under mental duress would be binding.

lefteh's avatar

Perhaps there is a stipulation somewhere in some law regarding footage of the committing of a crime.

For example, the news media doesn’t have to get permission to put footage of a burglar caught in the act on the nightly news, or the cruiser dashboard footage of a runaway car.

AstroChuck's avatar

lefteh, ask Barack. See if he knows.

cheebdragon's avatar

Each case is going to be a little different, some will be charged with solicitation, intent to have sex with a minor, sending pornographic images to a minor, but baisiclly all of them will be added to the sex offender list…..this is why they can show their faces on tv without the persons consent…..if you go to the website, you can read the full conversations with the guys…’s funny and yet disturbing at the same time.

lefteh's avatar

Barack won’t be home until tomorrow.

Plus, we’re sort of fighting. He keeps leaving his socks on my side of the room.

AstroChuck's avatar

Sell me one of them. I want to make tea.

augustlan's avatar

I think some places have made using the internet with intent to to have sex with a minor a crime. Also, crossing state lines for the same purpose is a crime (I think). I remember reading about this, but don’t remember where!

cheebdragon's avatar

crossing state lines adds to the sentence, I believe it actually makes it a federal offence.

jca's avatar

doesn’t somebody know a lawyer and we (they) can ask them? instead of us all guessing?

cheebdragon's avatar

it is a federal crime. I would link to it for you but I’m on my phone right now.

marinelife's avatar

We don’t need a lawyer. The laws are public record and easily available.

Florida prohibits the use of a computer to solicit sex from a minor or from a person believed to be a minor. Florida Statute 847.0135(3).”


“Criminal offense against a victim who is a minor” with respect to convictions occurring on or before June 30, 2001, means a criminal offense that consists of:
(4) solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual conduct;”

I could go on, but most states laws are similar.

From Black’s Law Dictionary: “The penalties for victimless sex offenses, such as solicitation of a minor or child pornography, are severe; often involving felony convictions, jail or prison time, sexual offender treatment programs and lifetime registration as a sexual offender.”

jca's avatar

nice research, marina. thanks.

AstroChuck's avatar

Thanks, Marina. Nice detective work. That leaves just one question unresolved.

donkhard's avatar

Cheeb nailed the other question. They’re sex-offenders. Their names, faces, addresses, and other personal info including arrest record and conviction record become public domain. NBC is protected under the Sexual Offender Act of 1994.

”...Megan’s Law is an informal name for laws in the United States requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. Individual states decide what information will be made available and how it should be disseminated. Commonly included information includes the offender’s name, picture, address, incarceration date, and nature of crime. The information is often displayed on free public websites, but can be published in newspapers, distributed in pamphlets, or through various other means…”


Maiasatara's avatar

I just happened upon this question after a rerun of the show and I, too, wondered about permission. (not that I think these men deserve ANY breaks.). I found the following in an interview with Chris Hansen which was most likely posted after this thread began. So if anyone is still following:

From Nancy, Davenport, Iowa:  How is that you are allowed to show the faces of the predators without their permission? I thought releases had to be signed. By the way, what you are doing is wonderful.

Chris Hansen: It would be more customary to obtain release, but Dateline is a news program not an entertainment program. It really depends on the circumstances. In some sensitive situations involving minors, for example, we have the parents sign release forms.

Shoot, lost link. Will repost it shortly.

LynnieLouise's avatar

One of my clients was caught in a sting like this. He didn’t spend any jail time, but he has to have supervised visitation with his children, his wife divorced him, and he is on the Sex Offenders list forever.

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