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California Solicitation Laws: What You Need to Know in 2024

In California, soliciting laws cover a range of activities related to seeking or requesting something, typically money or goods, from another person. It’s important to note that solicitation laws can vary depending on the specific circumstances and location, which is why it is advisable to consult with an attorney or legal expert for guidance on solicitation laws in California.
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What is Solicitation?

Solicitation involves offering or attempting to purchase goods or services and its legal status can vary based on the time or place.

Solicitation to commit a crime is a specific criminal offense where someone encourages or requests another person to commit a crime, intending to facilitate that crime’s commission.

In the United States, solicitation is a crime where a person offers money or persuades another to commit a crime with the specific intent that the person solicited actually commits the crime. For instance, federal law requires proof that the defendant intended for another person to engage in conduct that constitutes a felony crime of violence and that the defendant commanded, induced, or tried to persuade the other person to commit the felony.

Some U.S. jurisdictions conduct police sting operations to catch individuals soliciting prostitution, which has led to legal cases regarding privacy concerns.

Elements of Solicitation

According to Find Law, when solicitation is mentioned, many immediately think of prostitution, where soliciting someone for a sexual act in exchange for payment or other benefits is typically illegal [1]. However, solicitation extends beyond prostitution into various other contexts.

A broader definition of criminal solicitation includes:

  • Requesting, encouraging, or demanding someone to engage in criminal conduct.
  • Having the intent to facilitate, contribute to, or benefit from the commission of that crime.

The crime of solicitation can occur at both the federal and state level. Under federal law, it is a crime to engage in solicitation to commit a crime of violence. The government must prove that the defendant intended to engage another person to commit a felony crime of violence. It must show the offender solicited, commanded, induced, or sought to persuade the person to commit a federal crime – Find Law Stated.

Solicitation is categorized as an inchoate crime, similar to a criminal attempt or conspiracy. This means that under federal law, the underlying crime that the defendant solicited someone else to commit may not actually occur. Law enforcement can charge someone with solicitation to prevent the second criminal act, such as soliciting a murder for hire or an act of terrorism.

State laws on solicitation vary. Generally, to be guilty of solicitation, you must request that someone else engage in a criminal offense and have the intention to engage in criminal conduct with that person. Some states require that the other person actually receive the request, while others consider the act of making the request, along with criminal intent, enough to constitute a solicitation.

Solicitation can be associated with most crimes, allowing for charges against someone who solicits a crime without directly participating in it, such as a gang leader soliciting a burglary without being present during the burglary itself.

Intent to Solicit

According to Justia, to establish the first element of solicitation, a prosecutor must demonstrate that the defendant had a clear intention for another person to commit a crime [2]. This means that a person cannot be charged with solicitation if they mistakenly ask someone to commit a crime, especially if they are unaware that the action is illegal.

For instance, assume a man believes that his neighbor agreed to let him borrow the neighbor’s lawnmower, but the neighbor did not actually consent. The man asks his son to go get the lawnmower for him from the neighbor’s yard. Even though it would be a larceny for the son to take the lawnmower, the man would likely not be guilty of soliciting his son because the man did not realize that taking the lawnmower was a crime – Justia.

California Solicitation Laws

California Penal Code 653f criminalizes the act of soliciting another person to commit specific crimes. Essentially, solicitation involves encouraging, promoting, asking, pleading, commanding, enticing, recruiting, or urging someone else to commit a crime. This communication to solicit a crime can occur through various forms of communication.

Key elements of criminal solicitation include the specific words used to encourage the commission of a crime, the intent to carry out the crime, and whether the solicited person received the communication.

It’s important to note that you can be found guilty of solicitation to commit a crime under Penal Code 653f even if the solicited crime was never agreed upon or completed. In other words, the act of asking someone to commit a crime is sufficient for prosecution, but not all crimes are covered under this code section.

For instance, consider a scenario where an individual in county jail awaiting trial discovers a witness with damaging testimony. They then write a letter to a friend, urging them to find and assault the witness to prevent them from testifying. Although the friend decides not to carry out the assault, the inmate could still face charges of solicitation to commit a crime under Penal Code 653f.

The code specifies several crimes that fall under solicitation, including burglary, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, arson, assault with a deadly weapon, and others. To be convicted under PC 653f, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant requested another person to commit a crime with the intent that the crime be carried out and that the other person received the communication.

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References:

1. https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-charges/solicitation.html
2. https://www.justia.com/criminal/offenses/inchoate-crimes/solicitation/

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