Solicitation is the act of asking another person to commit a crime for you or with you. In order to be guilty you must really want the other person to engage in the crime. Solicitation is commonly charged when a person tries to engage in prostitution activities. But it can also be charged in more serious cases, such as in solicitation for murder, when someone tries to hire a hit man.
"Solicitors will get both barrels" - Darling Husband
How Is Solicitation Different from Conspiracy?
Solicitation is different from conspiracy because there is no agreement needed for the crime to be committed. The act of asking is enough to be charged with the crime.
How Do You Fight a Solicitation Charge?
Many cases of solicitation are cut and dry. You either asked someone to do something illegal or you didn’t. But the state must show that you were actually trying to accomplish the crime. Otherwise you may have a defense of free speech.
For instance, let’s say you are trying to clean the floors of your house. While you are cleaning your spouse keeps running in and out tracking mud on your floor. You look at your friend and out of frustration say “will you tie them up so they quit walking on my floor?” You have just solicited your friend to commit the crime of false imprisonment. But chances are you don’t really want your friend to tie up your spouse, so it is just an offhand comment rather than a crime.
But if your spouse makes you so mad walking in and out of the house tracking mud on your floor that you call a hit man and say “I will give you $50,000 to kill my spouse” and you actually bring the money, you are guilty of solicitation. You aren’t just talking; you are actually trying to have a crime committed.
Renunciation as a Defense
Just as in other crimes, renunciation is a valid defense to solicitation. Renunciation means that you change your mind freely and voluntarily and decide you do not want the crime committed. If you change your mind while asking another person to commit the crime and instruct them not to commit the crime you can have a defense to your solicitation charge.
Is There a Defense if the Person Is Unable to Commit the Crime?
No. If you ask a person to commit a crime, it doesn’t matter that it is impossible for them to actually commit the crime. It is enough that you asked and that you wanted them to do the crime.
For example, if you are under the age of 21, and you ask another person under the age of 21 to buy alcohol for you, you can still be found guilty of solicitation. Even though the other person was underage and could not have purchased the alcohol if they wanted to.
Solicitation of Minors
Solicitation of a minor is a very, very serious charge. There are laws in every state that make it illegal to solicit children under the age of 18 to engage in criminal activity. These laws provide for enhanced penalties if you try to involve a minor in your crime.
If the crime is sexual in nature, the penalties are even worse and can result in life imprisonment. So if you are accused of soliciting a minor you will need to contact an attorney immediately!
What Is the Penalty if I Am Found Guilty of Solicitation?
The penalty varies depending on what you asked.
- For simple solicitation crimes such as panhandling or soliciting a prostitute, the penalties can be as low as a fine or overnight stay in the jail. These types of solicitation crimes are usually misdemeanor offenses.
- Soliciting or asking someone to buy drugs for you or from you is a low level felony in most states. For a charge of this type you could face prison time. At a minimum, you could expect to spend time in the county jail.
- If you solicit another person to engage in dangerous criminal activity such as robbery, burglary or kidnapping, the crime is a felony. You can face serious time in prison for a solicitation charge of this nature.
- If you solicit a minor to engage in illegal activity it is seen as a serious felony and prison time is almost guaranteed. If you solicit a person under 18 to commit a sexual act you could face life imprisonment. These types of solicitation charges are seen as the worst types of offenses - even worse than solicitation for murder.
No matter what type of solicitation charge you face, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your available options or defenses. Some types of solicitation are felony charges and can have serious consequences even if the charge seems fairly minor. It is important to speak with an attorney who can fully explain all of rights and defenses before you make a decision regarding your charge.