Listening tonight to Aracely as a guest speaker, I was reminded of a point that many people who hear our stories get stuck on…

The ‘substantial step’

Within the clause used in the state of Washington on the ‘attempted’ charges of Rape of a Minor is the need for the prosecution to prove a substantial step was taken toward committing that crime. To me this has always been problematic. The way I read that is that the step has to point to the crime and not be appropriate to other options.

If a person says they are going to rob a bank…and then goes to a bank – is that a substantial step toward committing a crime? To me, although I am sure my logic is not that of LE, prosecutors, Judge, or jury – to be a substantial step toward committing a crime it would need to be a step that can be shown to NOT BE A STEP TOWARD A LEGAL ACTION.

In the bank robber scenario – going to the bank *could* mean they needed to make a deposit, that they were passing the bank to get to the grocery store for milk, that they had a friend who worked there with whom they were going to lunch, OR also possibly to rob the bank. Such a substantial step does not seem substantial to me.

Some would then say it’s ‘substantial’ if the person brought a mask and a gun and entered the bank. But, for argument’s sake, what if the mask was a cold weather mask and this person was licensed to carry? (Jace says you can’t carry a gun into a bank so if that is true switch the idea to knocking over a convenient store in your mind)

Law Enforcement says that someone showing up at a meet is the *substantial step* needed to prove guilt of attempted rape of a child. I disagree.

Additionally, I have heard the argument that if someone shows up at a meet, between two people who connected on an adult dating site, and that person brings lube and condoms, that their actions are suspect.

In rebuttal I’d like to ask – if you encounter a potential partner online and decide to get together in real life, and that person is an adult you were meeting for sex – would bringing lube and condoms be a substantial step toward committing a crime? The answer is an obvious ‘no’.

So how can the same action be a substantial step in one scenario and not another? For this I would use one of my sister’s favorite answers – it depends. The depending part of both scenarios, the bank (convenience store) and sexual encounter, is the intent of the person taking that step. Was the man wearing a mask and carrying a firearm going into the bank to make a deposit? After playing a video game about bank robbery? Was the adult bringing lube and condoms meeting what they believe to be another adult who has communicated that they wish to roleplay that they are a child?

To me, a substantial step is a step that cannot be a step a normal person would take in a normal situation. If its 80 degrees outside and someone wheres a mask into a bank….OK that’s incriminating.

If a man shows up at a blind meet, is met by a real child and enters that home – that is a substantial step.

Do not get me wrong, I do not think Law Enforcement has any reason or right to go onto adult only websites and induce citizens to commit a crime. Ever. But let’s also be clear that there are valid reasons people act the way they do – to meet an adult pretending to be a child for sex is not illegal.

But to my mind, as far as Washington goes where they have to prove intent and a substantial step, the step of showing up, even with lube and condoms is not substantial if it would again rely upon intent! The proving of one thing can not rely upon a separate requirement – that to me is a conflict.

3 thoughts on “Substantially speaking

  1. These poor individuals who have the unfortunate bad luck of getting into a chat with one of these LE sting operations are at a severe disadvantage. They really never stood a chance. Their intent is already perceived to be an attempt at an illegal encounter! Then they are given the substantial step to take, which to the LE Sting operation is the proof they need. When in fact, intent is often shaky, absent or even doctored with leading statements and creative editing, while the substantial step can be really anything! They’ve even been known to go after people who don’t take the step… The conflict is huge, there is a wide gap between intent and step, they don’t care, these people are all guilty!!! And how could that be possible? It can’t.

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  2. I was caught up in a sting years ago. I can relate. I would like to see these police stings abolished completely. The police sent me child porn and charged me with possession. They also need to abolish the registry and community custody. All those things are unconstitutional. I have a few supporters that also agree with me. I plan to see if I can get 5 minutes in the Capitol during a session. My sotp therapist is involved with a group of professional people who are trying to get these things changed. They affect thousands of people adversely. I would like to get the word out to more people, but I am not allowed to be on social media at this tome. I plan to get that changed soon.
    Thank you for everything you do. We can make those changes soon. God Bless You.
    It would be nice to chat with someone in your organization.
    Jean Burfiend

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