There are many crimes that one can be convicted of, but some of the most interesting are known as inchoate offenses. Solicitation is one of lowest threshold inchoate offenses, meaning that it does not take much to be found guilty of solicitation.
Prosecutors must prove two things to be successful in convicting an individual of solicitation.
Solicitation. First, an individual must ask a person to commit a crime. This is the soliciting aspect to solicitation. If a person asks another person to rob a store, kidnap someone, or commit any other type of crime, then this element has been fulfilled.
Specific Intent. Second, an individual who asks a person to commit a crime must have the specific intent that the person solicited commits that crime. Important here is the distinction between a general intent and a specific intent.
Our legal system has categorized eleven crimes as specific intent crimes and solicitation is included as one of those crimes that require a specific intent. Therefore, if the person soliciting the crime does not really intend for the crime to be completed, he or she cannot be found guilty of conspiracy. Even if an individual asks another person to specifically commit a certain type of crime, that person cannot be guilty of solicitation without showing the specific intent.
An easy example would be if a person soliciting the crime were joking when he or she asked. If, for example, person A asks person B to kill someone in a joking manner, and then person B does kill that person, person A is not guilty of solicitation because he or she did not really intend for the person solicited to commit a murder.
Another interesting fact about solicitation is what is known as the merger doctrine. The merger doctrine provides that an individual cannot be guilty of both solicitation and the completed crime. If the crime, let’s assume a robbery, is committed, the prosecutor cannot convict the person of both being an accomplice to the robbery itself and also a solicitation of robbery. The prosecutor would, in this case, just attempt to convict the person of the more serious charge, the commission of the crime itself.
Solicitation crimes are also closely related to conspiracy because when another person agrees to commit the crime, a conspiracy has been formed. Conspiracy is a more serious charge than solicitation as well, so if the other person does agree, the individual soliciting the crime will likely be charged with conspiracy rather than solicitation. If the other person does not agree, however, the individual soliciting the crime will likely be charged with only solicitation.