The term solicitation refers to a request for something, often money. Many people complain that their mailbox is full of solicitations from companies trying to sell them something, or charities asking for monetary donations. The term also applies to the act of appearing at people’s homes or businesses, usually uninvited, in an attempt to sell a product or service. In a criminal sense, solicitation refers to the offering of money or other benefit to persuade another to do something illegal. To explore this concept, consider the following solicitation definition.
Definition of Solicitation
- The act of seeking something by persuasion or entreaty
- A persistent petition or request
- The act of enticing another to commit a criminal offense or illegal act
- The act of accosting someone for something in exchange for payment
1485-1495 Middle English sollicitātiōn
What is Solicitation
In civil law, solicitation is the act of requesting, appealing to, or seeking funds or other thing of value. A solicitation, or request, can be made in writing, in person, or by electronic methods. Solicitation is commonly done to raise money for charitable causes, though it is also done for personal profit. The laws of each state vary in regard to solicitation, and legitimate solicitation for charitable purposes is different than criminal solicitation.
Neither individuals nor businesses put up with annoying or time-consuming solicitation. This is addressed by the many signs present in society stating “no solicitation,” which essentially put such people as door-to-door vendors and children selling cookies and magazine subscriptions on notice that they are trespassing.
Example of Solicitation Statute
The criminal act of solicitation is the actual act of soliciting, or engaging someone to commit a crime. The subsequent commission of said crime is a completely separate issue. In fact, the crime need not be ultimately committed, for criminal charges of solicitation to be waged. The following example solicitation statute defines the act:
“(a) Solicitation” means a request, directly or indirectly, for money, property, financial assistance, or any other thing of value on the plea or representation that such money, property, financial assistance, or other thing of value or a portion of it will be used for a charitable or sponsor purpose or will benefit a charitable organization or sponsor.
“(b) A person is guilty of criminal solicitation if, with the intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a crime, he solicits, requests, commands or importunes such other person to engage in such conduct.”
Criminal solicitation involves one person asking another person to commit an illegal act in exchange for something of value. The most common types of criminal solicitation involve drug dealing and prostitution. A person engages in solicitation if he intentionally orders, advises, or encourages another person to commit a crime. It is not necessary for the actual crime to have occurred for a person to be guilty of solicitation.
Lydia meets with a stranger for the purpose of hiring him to kill her abusive husband. She offers the man $20,000 for the killing, and pays him half of the fee up front. After the meeting, the man goes to the local police department to tell them about Lydia’s intent to hire a hit man.
The police then go to Lydia’s home and arrest her on charges of solicitation. In this example of solicitation, it does not matter that the man did not go through with the crime, as Lydia’s act of solicitation is a separate crime in itself.
Elements of Criminal Solicitation
The solicitation laws of each jurisdiction vary greatly, though there are some common elements that must be proven to successfully convict someone of criminal solicitation. If one of these elements is missing, charges of solicitation may not be appropriate, though different charges may certainly apply. The most commonly required elements of criminal solicitation include:
- The defendant must have requested, encouraged, bribed, or commanded a person to commit a serious crime, or crime of violence,
- With the intent that the person solicited actually go through with committing the crime,
- And with the intent to contribute to the crime in some manner.
Contributing to the crime may take many forms, whether it is by an offer of payment in exchange for the act, providing information or items needed to commit the act, or otherwise furthering the crime.
Types of Solicitation
The act of solicitation comes in many forms, from undesired sales attempts, to prostitution. Many people engage in solicitation of sales innocently, while others do it as part of a scam or unlawful profit.
Some forms of solicitation appear legal, but in reality, they are considered criminal behavior. Some common forms of solicitation include:
Solicitation of Bids
The requesting of bids for a job or government contract is considered solicitation, and is perfectly legal. This type of solicitation is commonly found in government contracts, in which the entity wishing to have a project done must obtain bids from multiple contractors or vendors, before awarding the job to anyone.
When the agency or entity embarks on a large project, it issues an Invitation to Bid, giving a limited period of time for any contractors or vendors to submit a sealed bid with their prices to complete the job. The contract is ultimately awarded to the lowest bidder who can provide all of the needed services.
This occurs when a person accosts strangers on the street to beg money from them. Panhandling has become a problematic social issue in recent decades, as people have engaged in a form of “aggressive panhandling” to increase their profits through the act. Panhandling includes solicitations for money made by verbally asking others for donations of money. It may even entail the use of harassment, threats, or badgering the victim.
Recently panhandlers have begun appealing to people’s sense of compassion, as they take to busy street corners, bearing signs, and using children or animals to garner sympathy. Panhandling is a form of emotional and financial abuse.
Passing the Hat
The phrase passing the hat refers to taking up a collection for a charitable purpose. This activity is most commonly seen in neighborhood or work environments, as a group of people decide to all donate money to help one of their own. For instance, employees may “pass the hat” around the office in order for everyone to have an opportunity to donate money to help a fellow employee who’s home suffered a fire. In most cases, this type of solicitation is not coercive, and so the law looks the other way.
High Pressure Tactics
High pressure tactics are sometimes used in order to coerce a person into making a purchase, or performing an act, he does not desire. This often takes the form of emotional or physical intimidation, or coercion.
Solicitation of an Illegal Act
Solicitation of an illegal act involves requesting, enticing, or coercing someone to engage in an illegal activity. This type of solicitation may include such acts as persuading someone to lie under oath (commit “perjury”), offering a bribe, or to incite a riot. Solicitation of an illegal act is more widely thought of in connection with prostitution, and has been known to include the hiring of someone to harm or kill another person.
Criminal Solicitation Penalties
Criminal solicitation penalties generally take into account the fact that solicitation itself is not a completed offense. Because of this, it is often punished as one degree lower than what the individual would face had he completed the act himself.
Michael is tired of his father constantly holding his Last Will & Testament over his head, and determines to simply end the matter before changes to the Will, to remove Michael’s name, can be made. Unable to conceive of how to kill his father without bringing suspicion onto himself, Michael meets with a man who offers to do the deed for a price. Michael hands over $10,000 to the man that day, with a promise of an additional $10,000 after the hit-man completes the job.
Michael was not careful enough, as the police investigation leads to Michael’s door, where he is arrested and charged with the murder of his father. As facts begin to solidify, Michael throws the other man under the bus, blaming him for killing his father, and saying he only talked to the man about getting rid of the overbearing patriarch.
As it turns out, the violent and gruesome method used by the hit man to kill Michael’s father makes him eligible for the death penalty, if convicted. Michael, who solicited the murder of his father, but did not take part in the actual killing, will likely be held responsible for the same crime, but punished one degree lower than the hit man. This means that Michael may be found guilty of first degree murder, but not be subject to the death penalty.
Solicitation of Prostitution
Solicitation of prostitution is the most common form of solicitation, and it can have serious legal consequences. Solicitation of prostitution involves one person entreating another person to perform a sexual act in exchange for money or other valuable item, such as drugs.
In prostitution, it is not necessary that the sexual act be completed for criminal charges to apply. Simply agreeing to perform the act in exchange for a fee, or offering to pay money to someone to perform the act, qualifies as the crime of solicitation of prostitution. It is for this reason that police “stings” on prostitution are so successful. Both the prostitute and the “John” have committed a crime.
Defense to Solicitation of Prostitution Charges
There are several tactics a person charged with solicitation of prostitution can use as a defense in court. The most common defense to solicitation of prostitution charges is the issue of whether or not an agreement for sex in exchange for money even existed. For example, the defendant may claim that he did talk to another about a sexual encounter, but there was never any talk about a fee in exchange.
Coercion by a third party is another defense to solicitation of prostitution charges. This occurs when the person accused of offering sex in exchange for money claims to have been coerced or threatened into the act. This third party may be a “pimp,” In such a case, the prostitution may be successful in claiming he or she did not want to offer sex for money, but was threatened if she did not comply.
The practice of using police officers posing as either prostitutes or clients has been a successful tactic in making solicitation arrests for many years. Countless defendants have attempted to use a defense of entrapment, or of “impossibility,” because the undercover officer had no intent to go through with the deal. This defense has been consistently denied by the courts, as solicitation refers to the asking another person to engage in an illegal act, and doesn’t rely on whether or not the act was completed.
Penalties for Solicitation of Prostitution
Prostitution-related charges are usually classified as a misdemeanor, though that may vary according to the specific details of the crime. Even misdemeanor penalties for solicitation of prostitution can have a life-changing impact. Misdemeanor punishment may include a fine and probation, or imprisonment of a year or two. Many states attempt to address the connection between drug abuse and prostitution by offering diversion programs as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
The program provides rehabilitation, life skills courses, and other help deemed necessary by the diversion court, while requiring the individual to take part in these opportunities. If the defendant is successful in completing the diversion program, his charges may be reduced, or even dropped altogether. Diversion is not offered by every state.
Example of Solicitation Case
In 2011, a Brett Nash, a former barge worker in Pontoon Beach, Illinois, hatched a scheme to abduct a local wealthy attorney, for the purpose of extorting money from him. Nash schemed with his wife and another man, turned confidential informant, to create a plan in which Nash’s wife would lure the victim from his home, at which point Nash and the other man would abduct him and take him to the Nash’s home. The plan saw the victim rigged with a phony explosive device, and taken to his bank where he would withdraw a large sum of money to be handed over to the kidnappers.
The other man, previously convicted of killing and on parole, went to the police after Nash had offered him money to kill the attorney after they had gotten money from him. He then became a confidential informant, wearing a monitoring device to record conversations with Nash. In the recordings, Nash discussed in detail his intent to put the victim into a hot tub, then electrocuting him by tossing in an electric radio. Nash said they would put a cat in the bath with the victim to make it look like the cat had knocked the radio into the tub. Other recordings chronicled Nash’s specific plans to kidnap and murder the lawyer.
At trial, Nash attempted to defend himself by claiming that, regardless of what had been discussed, no crime had actually been committed. The recordings told the court, however, that Nash had intended to kidnap, extort, and murder the victim, and that he had solicited the help of a known killer to get the job done. Nash was convicted of solicitation to commit a serious felony, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, plus three years of supervised release.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Criminal Act – An act committed by an individual that is in violation of the law, or that poses a threat to the public.
- Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or w has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Felony – A crime, often involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor. Felony crimes are usually punishable by imprisonment more than one year.
- Intent – A resolve to perform an act for a specific purpose; a resolution to use a particular means to a specific end.
- Lesser Charges – A lesser charge, or included offense, shares some elements of the main charge or greater criminal offense. For example, trespassing is a lesser included offense of burglary, aggravated sexual assault is a lesser included offense of rape, and manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder.
- Misdemeanor – A criminal offense less serious than a felony.
- Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.
- Victim – A person who is injured, killed, or otherwise harmed as a result of a criminal act, accident, or other event.