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Can I pretend to be underage to catch a potential pedophile?

Washington, DC |

If I have information that someone may be a pedophile, is it against the law to pretend to be a teen online and catch that person doing something illegal?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Best answer

    Assuming you are not a police officer, the risk here is tremendous. And, what if this person IS a police officer, and you fall into a pedophile trap? Leave police work to the police, and report what you suspect and why. The police can investigate and even set up an arrest situation.

    We do not have a client/attorney relationship until you make an appointment, we discuss your case face to face, I accept a retainer, and we explictly agree to enter into representation.

  2. It may be legal, but it is a dumb idea. You are putting yourself in danger and may be accused of a crime yourself. This is what the police are for. Report it to them and forget about it.

    DISCLAIMER—This answer is for informational purposes only under the AVVO system, its terms and conditions. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship. I am admitted only in California. (Bryant) Keith Martin

  3. Your actions are un-needed, risky and inappropriate.
    If you have reasonable grounds report them to the police and let them do their job.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

  4. It is potentially very risky, both physically, and for the outcome of the legal case against said pedophile. This is why law enforcement agencies, despite mistaken popular belief, generally DON'T like semi-vigilante organizations like the ones featured on To Catch a Predator.

    Don't do it, leave it well enough alone. If you think someone is a child predator, notify the police immediately.

    The author is a Maryland attorney; however no answer given on Avvo is intended as legal advice or intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

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