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What is Solicitation Under Florida Criminal Law?

What is Solicitation Under Florida Criminal Law?

Solicitation is one of three inchoate crimes in Florida, along with criminal attempt and criminal conspiracy. An inchoate crime refers to preparing for or seeking to commit another crime. With solicitation, a person encourages, requests, or commands someone else to commit a crime, even if that crime is never actually carried outThe Legal Definition

Florida Statute 777.04(2) defines criminal solicitation like this:

“A person who solicits another to commit an offense prohibited by law and in the course of such solicitation commands, encourages, hires, or requests another person to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such offense or an attempt to commit such offense commits the offense of criminal solicitation.” 

So in plain English, solicitation happens when:
  • Person A asks, encourages, commands etc. Person B to commit a crime
  • Person A intends for the crime to be carried out
  • The crime does not have to actually occur

The statute also ranks criminal solicitation as one offense level below the attempted crime for sentencing purposes (more on that later). 

What’s the Difference Between Solicitation and Conspiracy?

Conspiracy and solicitation have some overlap under Florida law. The main difference is that with conspiracy, multiple people agree to commit a crime together.

With solicitation, only one person (the solicitor) intends and encourages the crime to happen. The other person does not have to agree to commit the crime. 

So in a conspiracy, two or more people intend and plan to commit the crime. With solicitation, only the person making the request intends for the crime to happen.

What Does the State Have to Prove?

For a solicitation conviction in Florida, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Intent: The defendant intended for the criminal offense to be carried out
  • Request: The defendant requested, commanded, hired, or encouraged someone else to commit the offense
  • Specificity: The request referred to specific criminal conduct

The state does not have to prove the crime actually occurred. Just the act of requesting it is enough.

And the person being solicited does not have to agree to commit the crime. Simply making the request with criminal intent is sufficient.

Examples of Solicitation

Solicitation charges can arise from a variety of circumstances. Some examples include:

  • Asking someone to murder your spouse for money
  • Requesting someone beat up another person
  • Trying to hire someone to rob a store
  • Encouraging someone to burn down a building for insurance money
  • Suggesting someone sell you illegal drugs
  • Convincing a minor to send you nude photos

Defenses Against Solicitation Charges

Some potential defenses to fight solicitation charges include:

Lack of Intent: The state has to prove you intended for the crime to occur. So evidence showing you didn’t really want the offense committed could defeat the charges.

False Accusations: If the other person falsely claims you solicited them, highlighting credibility issues and motives to lie can undermine the case.

Entrapment: If police improperly induced you to commit a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have, that may invalidate the charges.

Mistake of Fact: Evidence you reasonably but incorrectly believed your conduct wasn’t illegal could help show lack of intent.

Mental State: Evidence of mental conditions that impacted your ability to form criminal intent could defeat the charges.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the evidence against you and build a tailored defense to attack the state’s solicitation case on every front. 

Penalties and Sentencing

As mentioned earlier, under Florida law the offense level for solicitation is ranked one level below the completed crime.

So soliciting a first-degree felony drops it to a second-degree felony for sentencing purposes. Soliciting a third degree felony makes it a third-degree for sentencing. 

The ranking matters because it impacts the potential prison time if convicted. Like this:

First-Degree Felony

  • Completed Offense: Up to 30 years
  • Solicitation: Up to 15 years

Second-Degree Felony

  • Completed Offense: Up to 15 years
  • Solicitation: Up to 5 years

Third-Degree Felony

  • Completed Offense: Up to 5 years
  • Solicitation: Up to 5 years

In addition to incarceration, solicitation convictions can also carry significant fines, probation, and other penalties.

And solicitation charges can have other collateral consequences as well, like harming employment prospects and professional licensing status.

Getting Legal Help

Facing criminal solicitation accusations in Florida can be extremely serious. The potential penalties are severe, and the complex legal issues involved make mounting an effective defense challenging.

Having an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer in your corner can make all the difference. They understand the solicitation laws and how prosecutors build these cases. And they have the skills to carefully analyze the evidence and identify every possible defense.

So if you believe you may face solicitation charges, or have already been arrested, contact a qualified attorney immediately. An prompt, aggressive defense is critical for achieving the most favorable outcome possible.

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