SL&P's special guest-bloggers point to US v. Gladish. For many people that practice criminal law, the scenario is sort of normal. Some guy gets on the internet and starts chatting with a cop. Only the cop claims to be a thirteen-year-old girl. Because this case contains a discussion of expert testimony as well as the substantive crime everyone should read it and discuss it on the internet.
Here are the facts:
The defendant lived in southern Indiana; "Abagail" purported to live in the northern part of the state. She agreed to have sex with the defendant and in a subsequent chat he discussed the possibility of traveling to meet her in a couple of weeks, but no arrangements were made. He was then arrested.
He was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), which "which, so far as bears on this case, forbids knowingly attempting to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a person under 18 to engage either in prostitution or in any sexual activity for which one could be charged with a criminal offense."
So, here it is: 1) No sex; 2) no contact; 3) just words. Posner, to his credit, takes a break from writing articles which explain why the executive should be able to detain random people (even partners at large law firms) without judicial review to write a quite coherent opinion about the law of the "substantial step."