There are many instances when one can be accused of committing the criminal act of solicitation. If you are suspected or accused of urging another person to act in an unlawful manner, you can be charged with solicitation. Solicitation can take many forms, and one can be accused of committing the crime without really intending to. In other instances, there are cases of mistaken identity, where you are mistakenly accused of solicitation. Whatever happens, it is important to know that Virginia Criminal Attorney can help you fight solicitation charges for a fairer sentence or for the case to be dropped altogether. We serve clients in Fairfax and Northern Virginia.
Legal Definition of Solicitation
Solicitation can be used in a wide range of legal contexts. Anyone who persuades another person to commit a criminal act will be charged with solicitation.
Legally, solicitation is defined as making a request or an appeal, orally or in writing, to another person, seeking, pleading or in order to obtain money, property or anything else that is valuable, with a promise of something more valuable. Solicitation can be made for charitable purposes or for business profits. Most states govern business solicitors and have state and federal laws in place to ensure that consumers' rights are protected.
A solicitation will include an oral or a written request. The request can be made as an announcement to the press on television or radio or by telegraph. The request, in most cases, involves a campaign or an appeal by a charitable organization, or by another person for a charitable organization or a sponsor.
It could also include posting, circulating, distributing or publishing any kind of advertisement, handbill or another form of advertisement that directly or indirectly seeks to acquire some contribution.
Solicitation could also be manifested in an act of selling or an attempt to sell an advert, advertisement space, card, book, coupon, magazine, device, merchandise, membership, sponsorship, flower, subscription, food, ticket and anything that is tangible and considered of greater value without any right of distribution or any connection to an appeal made for charitable or sponsorship purposes.
Solicitation can take so many forms and so, it is important for a person accused of soliciting to understand what the law entails so as to prepare a strong defense against the possible charges.
Solicitation in Virginia
As a criminal act in Virginia, solicitation is defined as making a request, demanding or encouraging another person to criminally engage in an act with the intention of facilitating or contributing to that offense being committed. Solicitation in the state is commonly linked to prostitution, whereby it is defined as a request by a person to another to take part in sexual acts for money.
Many forms of solicitation can be seen in everyday life and even though they appear to be legal, some are illegal and one can commit the crime without really meaning to. A telemarketer who is trying to sell something by calling potential customers could be committing a crime of solicitation even though the product they are selling is legit. The law requires telemarketers to register with the state. If the telemarketer has not met the registration requirement, they may be charged with solicitation. If found guilty, such a solicitor may face steep civil or criminal penalties, depending on the prosecutor and the level of defense he/she put up in the case.
As mentioned above, criminal solicitation in most cases involves drug dealing and prostitution, and in some cases, bribery. The crime is committed if one person intentionally advises, entices, incites, orders or encourages another person to commit a crime. The crime the other person has been solicited to commit does not have to be committed for the solicitor to be charged.
Elements of Solicitation
To be found guilty of criminal solicitation, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the accused:
Requested, persuaded, incited or ordered another person to engage in a criminal conduct
Had the intention of engaging in criminal conduct with another person
The prosecutor must verify that the defendant had intentionally engaged another person to commit a crime by persuasion, command or induction. If it is a crime of murder, for instance, there must be proof that the perpetrator had solicited an act of terrorism or murder for hire, even if the terrorism or murder was not carried out.
The act of request must be proven, along with the criminal intent for the crime to constitute a solicitation. As long as the other person received the request to commit a crime, the solicitor can be charged with criminal solicitation.
The crime may not have been committed. In a criminal case of solicitation, the prosecutor will still proceed to charge the defendant even if the ensuing crime was never committed. The solicitor can still be found guilty even if their appeal or command was never accepted and the crime they solicited for was not committed. If for instance a hit man is contacted by a senior politician to eliminate an opponent, the politician can be sentenced for solicitation even if the murder was never carried out.
Penalties for Solicitation
A person can be charged for soliciting the committing of a wide range of crimes and for this reason, penalties can vary greatly. The charges of criminal solicitation escalate depending on the severity of the offense which was supposedly solicited. In case of a solicitation for murder, for instance, the solicitor may be convicted to a higher class of felony, which is more severe than the crime of soliciting for prostitution.
Prostitution and Solicitation Laws in Virginia
Solicitation of a prostitute is one of the most common decency crimes of solicitation in Virginia. The criminal solicitation of a prostitute is treated as a class 1 Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a sentence of not more than 12 months in jail and a fine of a maximum of $2500 plus a blood test for sexually transmitted diseases.
This crime is committed when a person (defendant) incites another person to commit the criminal act of prostitution. The defendant can still be convicted even if his/her solicitation did not yield any results and the crime of prostitution was not committed. The main element of the offense, in this case, would be incitement.
Section 18.2-346(B) of the Virginia Penal Code makes it illegal for any person to offer money or anything valuable to another person for the purposes of taking part in sexual acts. If this happens, the person will be charged with soliciting for prostitution and will be liable to Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Virginia laws are very strict on prostitution and provide steep punishments for any lascivious, lewd and indecent acts. Any indecent acts are treated as criminal offenses in the state’s law and most of them are charged as Class 1 Misdemeanors. What is generally prohibited in the state is a solicitation, prostitution, and promotion of prostitution. The people who can be charged with these crimes include prostitutes, prostitution customers, Madames or pimps (who handle transactions) and anyone else that is intentionally involved in these acts.
Virginia prostitution and solicitation laws cover the following:
All prostitutes and anyone involved in the prostitution business
As defined in Section 18.2-346 of VA laws, a person who commits fornication, adultery or any sexual act for money, or anyone who compromises to commit such crimes for money, will be liable of prostitution and will be punished by Class 1 misdemeanor.
The same goes for anyone that is offering money or anything valuable to another person for the purposes of taking part in sexual acts will be liable to solicitation for prostitution.
This crime also involves anyone that is aiding prostitution or any form of illicit sexual intercourse, including people who receive money from earnings that are made by either male or female prostitutes.
Anyone that keeps, resides in or visits a bawdy place
A bawdy place as defined in Section 18.2-347 of VA Penal Code will be a place within or outside any building or a structure that is used for assignation, prostitution or lewdness. Virginia law makes it illegal for somebody to own such a place, live in or even visit such a place for decadent purposes. Every day a person keeps, lives in or visits such a place will form a separate crime, with separate penalties. To be prosecuted for this crime, the general repute of that place must be proved by the court.
Harassment through computer
As provided in Section 18.2-152.7, if a person uses a computer or a computer network to intimidate, coerce or harass a person with the intent of communicating in a vulgar, lewd, profane, obscene, lascivious or any other language of indecency in a manner to suggest or propose obscenity or intimidate any unlawful or immoral deed, such a person is guilty of class 1 Misdemeanor. A second-time offender of the same crime within a period of 10 years from the time the first offense was committed will be liable of Class 6 felony offense.
As per Section 18.2-387, a person who deliberately makes an indecent exposure or display of himself/herself or his/her private parts in an open place or in a place where there are other people shall be liable of Class 1 Misdemeanor. The same goes to a person who procures another person to expose themselves indecently publicly or in the presence of other people. This crime excludes lactating mothers.
Obscene sexual exposure
According to Section 18.2-387.1 of VA Penal Code, any person who publicly or in the presence of other people with an intention to be perceived by others engages in actual sex or openly stimulates themselves through masturbation will be liable of Class 1 Misdemeanor. This could be done through massaging, touching or exposing one’s erogenous parts.
Solicitation of a Minor
In Virginia, solicitation of a minor is a crime that entails involving a minor in sexual acts or relations. The crime is both a federal and state crime and can attract serious penalties on both ends. A defendant can face more severe punishment if the minor is under a certain age or when there is a big difference in age between the two parties, mainly a difference of more than three years.
Any sexual interaction between a person over the age of 18 and another under the age of 18 is considered solicitation of a minor in Virginia. The defendant will use manipulation, coercion or force to get the minor in that situation.
Most of these crimes occur through online communication nowadays, making it hard for all perpetrators to be charged. Through electronic communication, most people are taking advantage of minors, coercing them to engage in sexual activities from any part of the state or world in general. There are social sites that are popular with these kinds of activities and minors are members of those sites. These enable the crime to escalate beyond control.
It is possible that through such media, the minor may not be willing to state his/her exact age and for that reason, a lot of people have found themselves facing serious crimes such as this without intending to. For this reason, it is important for anyone charged with soliciting a minor in Virginia to take immediate action. You will need the help and support of a Virginia criminal attorney to get started on a defense strategy that will get you out of this kind of trouble.
Note that sex crimes are very serious in Virginia and so, you will need a strong defense that can only be planned by an experienced criminal attorney. When you are charged with soliciting a minor online or in person, you will need to refute those charges. The problems with crimes of this nature are that the prosecutor does not need to prove your sexual interaction with the minor. What the court needs in order to find you guilty of the crime is the intention and the exchange of details between you and the minor.
Some of the illegal actions involved in the solicitation of a minor are for instance:
Exposure of one’s private parts to the minor when the two parties are not already in a legal marriage.
Propositioning the minor to touch or fondle the private parts of an adult
Proposing to the minor to interact sexually in a manner that is considered illegal in the state.
Alluring or enticing a minor to a sexual relation
Proposing the minor to enter into an adult’s home or car for the prohibited acts
Possible Defenses for Solicitation Charges
In all criminal cases, the defendant can always protect themselves by stating and proving that they did not commit the act. This is a common defense that can be used in the case of solicitation. It is possible to be wrongly accused of such a crime, and if your attorney is able to argue your case; the court may accept the fact that you did not commit the crime and thereafter drop the charges. Note that this defense will not act if the prosecutor has some form of evidence against you.
No criminal intent
Your attorney could also argue that you did not have any criminal act even if you acted the way you did. This is a good defense for someone who actually committed the crime but did not mean commit it. If for instance you solicited a prostitute but did not offer or intend to compensate him or her for performing sexual acts with you, you may not be liable of soliciting.
You will not be liable of soliciting if you recant your intention to commit the crime and you notify the other person that their offer is no longer required way before the crime is committed. If you solicit then immediately after, you change your mind, you will not be liable for the crime of solicitation. In such a case, testimonies from the other person may be required for the court to announce its verdict.
Not aware of the age of the minor
This defense can be used for someone that is charged with soliciting a minor for sexual interactions. It is possible for a minor to give a false age especially if they are joining popular social sites that only allow adults to register. If the defendant interacted with the minor in such sites, it is not possible for them to know that they are interacting with a minor. In such a case, the adult may not be liable for the offense.
Find a Virginia Criminal Attorney Near Me
The crime of solicitation can take many forms but the main form is based on sexual interactions. Considering how serious sex crimes are in Virginia, you can be sure to get a severe punishment if found guilty of criminal solicitation. However, things could work out in your favor if you engage the services of Virginia Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Call our Fairfax criminal lawyer at 703-718-5533 if you are in Fairfax, VA or Northern Virginia and let us create an effective defensive strategy for you.