Many things could cause a person to face charges for criminal solicitation. When a person is under suspicion for causing another to commit an unlawful act, they can face criminal charges for solicitation. It is an offense that could take several forms. For that reason, it is possible to face accusations for solicitation when you did not intend to solicit. Some people face false accusations too, out of mistaken identity and other reasons.
At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we know the seriousness of such a charge and the consequences it brings, which may include a lengthy prison term. For that reason, it is vital to get ready to fight your solicitation charges. With the right attorney by your side, he/she may compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges. If, therefore, you are in Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia and would like to enjoy a fair hearing, get in touch with us.
Legal Understanding of Solicitation in Virginia
Solicitation is a common term in many legal contexts. It refers to the criminal act committed by a person who persuades or causes another to get engaged in criminal acts. Legally, the crime is explained as making an oral or written request or appeal to another individual, pleading, seeking, or for profitable gains, promising the person something of great value. Note that a person can solicit another for either profit or charitable benefits. There are legal business solicitors in most states, whose activities are closely monitored. There are federal and state laws as well, to make certain that the rights of consumers are well protected.
For an act to qualify as a solicitation, there must be a written or oral request or appeal. Some offers can be announced through the press by radio, telegram, or TV. Other offers and calls are made through campaigns or appeals by charitable organizations. Some people will even post, distribute, circulate, or publish some kinds of advertisements, to solicit some financial contributions. If such appeals and requests are made legally, with no intention to commit criminal acts, they will not fall under the criminal solicitation.
It means that solicitation can assume several forms. It is, therefore, vital for people facing criminal solicitation charges to know what the state and federal laws entail as this will prepare them for what is to come as well as enable them to plan a reliable defense against their charges.
In the state of Virginia, the law against criminal solicitation is under Section § 18.2-29 of the State Statutes. The code punishes any person that entreats, commands, persuades, or attempts to convince another to get involved in a criminal act. If you are found guilty of demanding, requesting, or encouraging a person to engage in criminal acts by contributing to or facilitating the commission of the crime, you may be found guilty of unlawful solicitation.
In Virginia and most other states, criminal solicitation is mainly associated with prostitution. In this case, any person who requests another person to participate in sexual deeds for monetary gains will face charges for criminal solicitation.
Most forms of solicitations are present in our everyday lives. While some of them may appear lawful, some are unlawful and could cause the person to face solicitation charges even if they did not mean to solicit another person to get involved in a criminal offense.
Telemarketers are, for instance, professionals who can easily face charges for criminal solicitation. Calling out potential customers may seem like an innocent act, but it requires the telemarketers to register in the state legally. Even though whatever the telemarketers are marketing is legit, they still can face solicitation charges if they do not meet the state registration requirements. If found culpable, such professionals can face severe criminal or civil penalties based on the prosecutor in charge of their case and their defense.
However, most criminal solicitation cases revolve around such criminal acts like prostitution, drug dealing, as well as bribery. The offense is said to occur once a person intentionally entices, advises, orders, incites or encourages a different person to engage in a criminal offense. The offense that another person is made to commit doesn't have to have been completed for the offender to face criminal charges.
Elements of Virginia Criminal Solicitation Offense
Elements of the offense, in this case, are the facts of the case, which the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for the offender to be guilty of the offense. These are:
- That the offender persuaded, requested, ordered or incited another to participate in criminal acts
- That the offender had plans of participating in illegal acts with the other party
The jury will expect the prosecutor to provide adequate evidence that the offender intended to engage in criminal acts with another person through induction, command, or persuasion. If, for instance, the criminal action was murder, there should be enough evidence that the defendant solicited that act through terrorism or hiring a murderer. He/she will still be guilty even if they never committed the offense.
Similarly, the deed of requesting or appealing must also be proven, alongside the criminal plan for the prosecutor to prove unlawful solicitation. The jury would want to hear that the other individual indeed received the appeal or request to engage in crime. If not, the court will not find the defendant guilty of the offense.
Note that the criminal act must not have occurred for the defendant to be found guilty of unlawful solicitation. The court will still go to trial even though the offender did not commit the alleged crime. A person can again face charges for criminal solicitation even though the other being did not accept their appeal or request.
Penalties for a Solicitation Conviction in Virginia
As mentioned above, there are many forms of criminal acts that fall around the general crime of unlawful solicitation. For that reason, penalties will vary greatly, based on the nature of the offense committed and the defendant's criminal history. The punishment a person gets for unlawful solicitation can be heightened, based on the seriousness of the crime whose commission they were soliciting.
In the state of Virginia, a person who solicits another to commit any felony offense other than murder will face charges for the Class Six felony offense. A felony charge is the most serious charge in the state, with the most severe felony charge being punished with life imprisonment or a death penalty. Class six felony convictions are the least serious, though it also attracts a severe punishment, which might include a maximum of five years behind bars. On top of that, a felony conviction remains permanently in a person's criminal record. It means that it can affect a person's life in so many ways, including their ability to get meaningful employment.
A person who is an adult of eighteen years or older, who solicits a minor below the age of eighteen to commit any felony offense other than murder, will be sentenced to Class 5 Felony in the state. A Class 5 felony conviction is harsher than a Class Six felony and is punished with a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines of not more than $2500.
A person who entreats, commands, or persuades another to commit a serious felony such as murder will be guilty of a felony offense that is punishable with a minimum of five years and a maximum of forty years in prison.
Virginia Prostitution and Solicitation Laws
Solicitation and prostitution are two offenses that are under the same law in the state of Virginia, and their punishments are usually similar. The definitions of the two crimes are dissimilar, though. Prostitution refers to the act of engaging in sexual acts for monetary gains and is provided under Part 18.2-346 of Virginia laws. Solicitation, on the other hand, refers to the act of offering money or something valuable to persuade a person to participate in sexual acts. When law enforcement makes a prostitution arrest, in most cases, they arrest two people. The person who was offering sex for valuable gains would face charges for prostitution, and the person who was offering something useful to the customer would face charges for solicitation.
Generally, solicitation for sexual favors is a Class One Misdemeanor offense in Virginia. The crime is penalized by one year behind bars and a fine of not exceeding $2500. However, the penalties increase if the person facing solicitation for prostitution was a minor below the legal age of 18. In that case, the offender will face a conviction for a felony offense. If the child is at least sixteen or seventeen years, the solicitor is likely to face maximum prison time of five years. Again, if the minor was below 16 years of age, the defendant is expected to face a prison sentence of 10 years.
That is why it is advisable for anyone facing charges for Prostitution and Solicitation in Virginia to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Other than being by your side during the toughest period of your life, your attorney will be able to make sure that your rights are safe and respected throughout the legal process.
The reason why most states have strict laws against solicitation for prostitution is that it is the most common crime of decency throughout the country. Sex crimes are seen as severe throughout the country, and could subject the offender to many other punishments in Virginia; there is usually a mandatory requirement to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases once you are convicted for solicitation for prostitution. The offender can still get a conviction even if their solicitation didn’t produce any results, or the other individual did not commit the prostitution offense. The main fact of the crime, in this case, will be incitement.
The state of Virginia has stringent laws against indecent acts, and so, prostitution and solicitation for prostitution are considered serious offenses, just the same as obscene, lascivious and lewd acts. Any action that is regarded as indecent is treated as a criminal offense in the state. Even though most of these acts are Class One Misdemeanors, they carry other punishments such as adverse effects on a person's social and professional life.
The most common crimes of indecency are those that revolve around prostitution, promotion of, and solicitation for prostitution. People who are highly likely to face charges for such offenses include the prostitutes, their customers, pimps or madams who handle prostitution transactions, and any other person that willingly involves in such acts. Therefore, Virginia laws against prostitution and solicitation will cover these persons:
- Any person that is engaged in the business of prostitution: According to Virginia laws Part 18.2-346, any person that participates in any form of sexual activity for monetary gain, including adultery and fornication, or any person who agrees to engage in such offenses for money is guilty of prostitution. The same law will apply in the punishment of any person that offers monetary compensation to another being for them to participate in sexual deeds. Prostitution laws also cover those people who aid prostitution in any way, including those who depend on money earned through acts of prostitution.
- Any person that resides, visits, or keeps a place for prostitution/bawdy place: According to Virginia Laws Part 18.2-347, this is a place inside or outside a structure or building that is reserved for prostitution, lewdness or assignation. Virginia laws make it unlawful for any person to live, visit, or even own a place like that. Every day the offender visits, or holds or even lives in such an area form an individual offense, with different punishment. For the person to be found guilty under this law, the general reputation of the place should be proven before the court.
- Any person that harasses another through a computer: Virginia Statutes Part 18.2-152.7 makes it unlawful for any person to use computer or its network to coerce, intimidate or harass another person by use of a lewd, vulgar, obscene, lascivious, profane, or other indecent languages, to propose or suggest obscenity or coerce another to commit an illegal or moral deed. The offense is also convicted as a Class One Misdemeanor in the state. If the defendant commits the same crime for the second time, within ten years, they face a conviction for Class Six Felony.
- Virginia indecent exposure: The law against indecent exposure is provided under Virginia Laws Part 18.2-387. It is used to punish people who deliberately make indecent exposures of themselves or their genitals in open places or in places where other people are present. If you are found guilty of this offense, you are charged with Class Two Misdemeanor. Similar charges are faced by the person who causes another one to expose their private parts or themselves indecently in public or the company of other people. Note that this law does not include lactating mothers.
- Virginia indecent sexual exposure: Virginia laws Section 18.2-387 makes it illegal for a person to participate in sexual acts or to stimulate themselves openly sexually or in the occurrence of other people. This offense is also a Class 1 Misdemeanor any person who massages, exposes, or touches their genitals in public could also face charges for the same crime.
The Crime of Soliciting a Minor
Virginia Solicitation and Prostitution is generally charged as a Class One Misdemeanor. However, there are instances when penalties for this offense could escalate and cause the offender to face even more serious felony charges. Such a situation is when the person facing solicitation is a minor. Soliciting a minor in the state occurs when any of the sexual crimes named above involve a child below the legal age of 18. It is both a severe state and federal crime that can attract harsh punishments for both ends. Solicitors are charged more severely if they are found guilty of soliciting minors below a particular age or if they have a significant age difference between them and the child. The age difference mainly considered here is three years.
Note that any sexual relationship between an adult and a minor below the 18 is seen as soliciting a child in the state of Virginia. The offense could have been committed through manipulation, force, or coercion to get the juvenile to agree to the act. Some of these offenses are committed through virtual communication tools, which make it challenging for law enforcement officers to track and charge the perpetrators.
The most common ways in which solicitation for minors occur are:
- Excising one's genitals to a child when both of them are not legally married
- Making a minor to fondle or touch an adult's private parts
- Suggesting to a minor to participate in sexual acts that are considered unlawful in the state
- enticing or alluring a child into a sexual relation
- Recommending to a child to enter into a car or home belonging to an adult so the two can commit unlawful sexual acts
Possible Legal Defenses for Criminal Solicitation Charges in Virginia
Criminal solicitation is among the most severe offenses in the state of Virginia, especially if it involves the commission of serious felony offenses or solicitation of minors. These are offenses that could leave a person spending so many years behind bars and paying more in fines. In addition to that, criminal solicitation to prostitution is a crime that will affect so many aspects of a person's life. For that reason, it is good to try and fight your charges for a reduced charge or to have them dropped altogether. The help of a criminal attorney will help a lot in planning a reliable defense that could yield positive results. Here are some of the defense strategies your attorney can use in your case:
As mentioned above, there is always a possibility of facing a criminal charge for a crime you didn’t commit in the first place. If this is the case, your main aim should be to prove to the jury that you didn’t commit the act you are accused of committing. Some people falsely accuse others of severe crimes out of jealousness, desire to revenge, or malice. If another person is accusing you of soliciting or even paying them to commit a crime, you might be able to prove to the court that he/she is lying. If this defense works, the court will withdraw all your charges.
Lack of Criminal Intent
Criminal solicitation is an offense that calls for criminal intent as one of its main elements. If criminal intent is lacking, then there is no way the defendant could be found guilty of the offense. Some people jokingly say things without meaning them. Another person may take such utterances seriously and accuse them of solicitation, while in the real sense, they did not intend to solicit for the commission of a criminal offense. If you did not have any criminal intent, you would not be convicted of unlawful solicitation even if you acted the way you did.
You Were Unaware of the Minor's Age
Many times people are mistaken about the age of others, and this could cause a person to commit a crime with a minor without knowing that they are indeed a minor. If you are facing accusations for soliciting a minor for prostitution, you could face severe penalties if found guilty. If the court is convinced that you were unaware of the minor's age, the penalties you will get for the criminal solicitation will not be as severe.
Find a Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Criminal solicitation is a serious offense, going by the severity of the penalties offenders get after conviction. Therefore, it is not the kind of crime you want to be found responsible for. If you are facing criminal solicitation charges in Fairfax, VA, and Northern Virginia, we may be able to help with your defense. We have a team of experienced defense attorneys at Virginia Criminal Attorney who may be willing to take you through the legal process and protect your rights. Call us at 703-718-5533 and allow us to plan a strong defense for you.