Forty-nine-year-old Milton resident Donald Kizer is a child predator hunter. That is, the grandfather of four poses online as an underage teen to flush out pedophiles, expose them to the world, and bring them to justice. Kizer isn't a law enforcement official. He's just an ordinary citizen–and sexual abuse survivor–concerned about the prevalence of pedophiles online and their easy access to children.
He's not alone. Hundreds of regular citizens and groups across the country have taken it upon themselves to hunt and expose pedophiles. Usually, it works like this: a hunter pretends to be a teen on a social media or dating app and waits for a potential predator to approach them. After conversing online for a period, they make plans to meet in person. At the arranged meeting point, the hunter reveals the ruse while they or another person videos or live streams the event, exposing the alleged predator.
Occasionally a hunter's efforts can help bring criminal charges against sexual predators. But sometimes, the hunters are the ones that find themselves in trouble for criminal or civil law violations. Here's what you need to know.
Law enforcement officers often consider child predator hunters to be vigilantes. A vigilante is an individual, or a group of persons, who takes the law into their own hands, deciding to stop crime and punish the alleged criminal without having legal authority. Although vigilantism itself isn't illegal, if a vigilante breaks the law in the course of their actions, they will have to face the appropriate penalty. A child predator hunter who uses illegal means to trick, expose, or capture a predator could face serious criminal charges. In addition, they can make it difficult for law enforcement to charge an alleged predator.
For example, 30-year-old Kyle Swanson of Illinois is facing felony charges of unlawful restraint and obstructing justice, as well as misdemeanor assault after trying to catch an alleged predator. Swanson, who claims to have set up hundreds of stings by posing as an underage teen online, is accused of luring a target to his car under false pretenses, refusing to release the man from the car, and threatening to hit him. The police also say that Swanson obstructed justice because his actions prompted the alleged predator to delete incriminating information from his telephone.
Child predator hunters can also find themselves being brought up on charges of harassment. Hunters can run afoul of the law if they repeatedly contact, stalk, threaten, taunt, or annoy a target at their workplace, home, or online. The charge could be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on factors such as the nature of the harassment and whether the hunter has any prior criminal offenses.
Some child predator hunters might also gather information about a target in a manner that violates the target's right to privacy. Examples of illegal information gathering may include: snooping through someone's private records, illegally intercepting a telephone call, and taking photos or videos of someone inside their home or another private place without their knowledge or consent. If such actions occurred, the target might have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against a hunter.
Experienced Criminal Attorney Can Help
Although child predator hunters may have good intentions, their actions can be illegal and dangerous and may lead to false accusations. If you or someone you love has gotten into legal trouble because of predator-hunting activities, immediately contact an experienced criminal attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped thousands of individuals navigate criminal charges. He fights hard to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call 888-535-3686 today for a consultation, or schedule one online.