Urgent request, plea, or entreaty; enticing, asking. The criminal offense of urging someone to commit an unlawful act.
The term solicitation is used in a variety of legal contexts. A person who asks someone to commit an illegal act has committed the criminal act of solicitation. An employee who agrees in an employment contract not to solicit business after leaving her employer and then mails a letter to customers asking for business may be sued by the former employer for violating the non-solicitation clause of the contract. The letter constitutes a solicitation. However, if the person had placed a newspaper advertisement, this would not have been a solicitation because a solicitation must be addressed to a particular individual.
Many solicitations in everyday life appear to be legal. For example, a telemarketer who tries to sell a legitimate product by calling potential customers is making a solicitation. It may or may not be legal, however, depending on the laws of the states where the telemarketer and the caller reside. If either of the states requires that telemarketers register with the state government, then the legality of the solicitation will depend on whether the telemarketer met this registration requirement. Failure to register may make the telemarketing company liable for civil fines or criminal penalties.
Solicitation laws and regulations govern specific types of organizations and economic activities. For example, charitable organizations must register with state agencies before legally soliciting money. The federal SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION has rigid rules concerning the solicitation of shareholders for votes involving changes in corporate structure or leadership.
Criminal solicitation commonly involves crimes such as prostitution and drug dealing, though politicians have been convicted for solicitation of a bribe. The crime of solicitation is completed if one person intentionally entices, advises, incites, orders, or otherwise encourages another to commit a crime. The crime solicited need not actually be committed for solicitation to occur.
When law enforcement agencies seek to curtail prostitution, they use decoy operations. A person who offers to perform a sex act with an undercover officer for money can be arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Police decoys are also used to nab customers. When a person looking to pay for sex approaches a decoy officer and makes, by words or gestures, this request, the person can be arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Similar operations are used to reduce the sale of narcotics.