Solicitation: More Than Just Prostitution

solicitationCriminal solicitation commonly involves crimes such as prostitution although it is used in regard to other criminal activity such as drug dealing, bribery and even murder. The crime of solicitation is completed if one person intentionally entices, advises, incites or encourages another to commit a crime, in this case for payment for sexual services. The crime of solicitation for sex does not actually have to be committed for solicitation to occur. The statues make no distinction between gender and sexual orientation. Age on the other hand can be an extremely important element if a minor is involved.

Some see prostitution as victimless crime which is not a legal term but a term used for some acts that are considered crimes under the law but seem to have no victim. In the case of prostitution, it is viewed by some as a commercial exchange between two consenting adults. It is not, however, an arguable defense for solicitation under the US criminal justice system. The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million people in the US have worked as prostitutes in the United States, or about 1% of the population. Solicitation arrests are largely made by arresting the prostitute 80% versus the customer 10%. Prostitution is legal in counties with less than 400,000 residents in the state of Nevada, which excludes Clark County and its famous city Las Vegas.

If a third party orchestrates the transaction of prostitution they are guilty of solicitation for sex and are known as a middleman and can be charged for pimping or pandering. Pimping and pandering are both solicitation crimes however there are some differences. Pimping involves the following elements: obtaining a prostitute for another, arranging a meeting with a prostitute, and receiving payment for the services knowing that the money is resulting from prostitution (akin to a manager). Pandering occurs when a person solicits another person to perform an act of prostitution for themselves or a third person or when they knowingly provide a location for the purpose of being solicited by someone to perform an act of prostitution (akin to a recruiter).

Most arrests are made by undercover officers. A person who offers to perform a sex act with an undercover officer for money can be arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Undercover officers are also used to arrest customers by posing as a prostitute. When a person looking to pay for sex approaches an undercover officer and makes, by words or gestures, this request, the person can be arrested for solicitation of prostitution.

Solicitation penalties applied by the criminal justice system vary based upon the nature of the offense and for the purposes of this article do not include penalties for crimes involving a minor which are substantially more severe. The penalty for solicitation of prostitution is a misdemeanor in most states this is true for the prostitute and the customer equally.

Typically the defendant would spend less than a year in the county jail in which the offense was committed, pay a fine or both. Pimping is a felony with sentences of at least one year in state prison for the first offense and increasingly longer terms for repeat convictions. Pandering is also a felony with the punishment ranging from one year to six years in state prison and longer terms for repeat convictions. Sentences will be longer if you are convicted in a state that has what is called a “three strikes” statue. If that is the case a conviction could result in a life sentence.

Defending a case of solicitation is possible. Entrapment is a defense and usually the first defense that would come to mind in this situation. Entrapment cannot be used when a police officer poses as a prostitute or a customer and the defendant approaches and solicits them. Entrapment is a defense only if a person is approached by an undercover prostitute or customer and the defendant was not initially going to solicit a sexual transaction. For example, an undercover cop may not approach a person and ask them to pay for a sexual encounter or offer to provide a sexual encounter for payment in order to arrest and prosecute the person. Another possible strategy would be for both parties to state that no payment was exchanged. This would work if the police do not tape surveillance activities, and there are no prior arrests on record.

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