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Solicitation is the act of offering, or attempting to purchase, goods and/or services. Legal status may be specific to the time or place where it occurs.[clarification needed] The crime of "solicitation to commit a crime" occurs when a person encourages, "solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause" another person to attempt or commit a crime, with the purpose of thereby facilitating the attempt or commission of that crime.[1]: 698–702 

England and Wales

In England and Wales, the term soliciting is usually "for a person (whether male or female) persistently to loiter or solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution" under the Street Offences Act 1959 as amended.[2] The crime of soliciting should not be confused with the profession of a solicitor, which under UK law is typically that of a lawyer, who may also function as a legal agent to obtain the services of a barrister on behalf of a client.

United States

In the United States, solicitation is the name of a crime, an inchoate offense that consists of a person offering money or inducing another to commit a crime with the specific intent that the person solicited commit the crime. For example, under federal law, for a solicitation conviction to occur the prosecution must prove both that defendant had the intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony crime of violence, and that the defendant commanded, induced, or otherwise endeavored to persuade the other person to commit the felony.[3][citation needed]

In some jurisdictions in the United States, solicitation of prostitution is subject to occasional police sting operations, which have been in turn subject to court cases on privacy grounds.

One such instance occurred in Dothan, Alabama in March 2014, following the arrest of education activist Christopher Rufo in a public restroom on charges of solicitating prostitution. The affidavit filed by the arresting officer claimed that after he had tapped his foot in the adjacent stall (a widely known cue for solicitation in the area), Rufo slipped a ten-dollar bill underneath the partition. At the scene the officer collected limited physical evidence, except a leather-bound copy of the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, which he saw Rufo reading in the stall. A judge eventually dismissed the charges, ruling that Rufo's privacy was violated, as the officer was spying on him through the doorway prior to the alleged incident. [4]

Differences in laws

In the United States, the term "solicitation" implies some part of commercial element, consideration, or payment. In some other common law countries,[which?] the situation is different:

Differences from other crimes

Main article: Inchoate offence

Solicitation has in the U.S. these unique elements:

  1. the encouraging, bribing, requesting, or commanding a person
  2. to commit a substantive crime,
  3. with the intent that the person solicited commit the crime.

Unlike conspiracy, there is no overt step necessary for solicitation, one person can be a defendant and it merges with the substantive crime.

It is not necessary that the person commit the crime, nor is it necessary that the person solicited be willing or able to commit the crime (such as if the "solicitee" were an undercover police officer).

For example, if Alice commands Bob to assault Charlie, and Alice intends for Bob to assault Charlie, then Alice is guilty of solicitation. However, if Alice commands Bob to assault Charlie without intending that a crime be committed (perhaps believing that Charlie has given consent), then there is no solicitation.

An interesting twist on solicitation occurs when a third party that the solicitor did not intend to receive the incitement overhears the request to the original solicitee and unbeknownst to the solicitor, commits the target offense. In a minority of jurisdictions in the United States, this situation would still be considered solicitation even though the defendant never intended the person that committed the crime to have done so.

Solicitation is also subject to the doctrine of merger, which applies in situations where the person solicited commits the crime. In such a situation, both Alice and Bob could be charged with the crime as accomplices, which would preclude conviction under solicitation; a person cannot be punished for both solicitation and the crime solicited.

No soliciting signs – residential

In addition to the inchoate offense of solicitation, "solicitor" can also refer to a door-to-door salesman. This creates another form of illegal solicitation, as in many jurisdictions, it is illegal to ignore "no soliciting" signs with the burden typically resting upon the solicitor to look for the sign and upon observation to vacate the premises without attempting to contact the homeowner.[5][6] Some cities require the employer to properly train employees on the appropriate observation of local solicitation ordinances and instruct them to always carry an identifying badge that they must show upon request.[7]

City ordinances vary but may require a soliciting sign to be of a certain dimension to qualify for legal protection. Some signs may cite the city ordinance and describe the consequences to the solicitor. Although certainly not required, such methods may be more effective at deterring unwanted solicitation.

See also

A "No Soliciting" sign at the Camp Roberts Safety Roadside Rest Area on the northbound side of en:U.S. Route 101 near Bradley, California

Related to "no soliciting" signs


  1. ^ Criminal Law - Cases and Materials, 7th ed. 2012, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business; John Kaplan (law professor), Robert Weisberg, Guyora Binder, ISBN 978-1-4548-0698-1, [1]
  2. ^ UK Statutes website: Street Offences Act. For the latest Home Office proposals on this offence, see "Regulatory Impact Assessment - A coordinated strategy for prostitution" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-10-17..
  3. ^ "U.S. Attorney's Manual, Sec. 108.4. Elements of Solicitation". U.S. Department of Justice. 2015-02-20. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  4. ^ Ussery, Peggy. "Charges Stemming from Fortner St Sting Thrown Out", The Dothan Eagle, March 14, 2014
  5. ^ "Phoenix Municipal Code". City of Phoenix. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Utah County Residential Solicitation Ordinances" (PDF). Utah County. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Solicitor Business Permit Requirements". Plano City Police Department. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2014.