A solicitation charge can be potentially embarrassing and result in a damaged reputation. On the other hand, a conviction can result in more tangible, long-term consequences. Here’s a quick primer.

Defining “solicitation”

Washington State law’s thorough description says:

  • Pursuant to a prior understanding, he or she pays a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her; or
  • He or she pays or agrees to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefor such person will engage in sexual conduct with him or her; or
  • He or she solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee.

There are two important points hidden in that legal definition. The first is that an agreement is all law enforcement needs for charges. No sex act needs to have taken place. However, simply discussing possible solicitation, without intentional planning or an agreement, does not meet the criteria for charges.

The second is that the state doesn’t limit “sexual conduct” to literal sexual intercourse. Any form of contact or non-contact activity intended to provide sexual gratification falls under that definition.

Penalties for solicitation

In Washington State, solicitation is a misdemeanor. While this charge is far less life-altering than a felony, the penalties can still be harsh, including a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, probation and other fees and restrictions.

Solicitation defense options

People accused of solicitation have several defense strategies to choose from, depending on their circumstances.

Disputing intent and evidence are among the most effective options for establishing reasonable doubt. Was the defendant joking or was there a miscommunication? Was there entrapment via insistent offers, coaxing or badgering? Was the witness(s) unreliable or biased? Was evidence obtained illegally? Is there contradictory evidence?

Additional strategies may include:

  • Proving misconduct or errors by law enforcement.
  • Dismantling flawed undercover work.
  • Highlighting a lack of surveillance evidence.

Ideally, the goal is to get charges dismissed without going to trial. Failing that, depending on your situation, your options are to sow as much doubt as possible with the jury or even agree to a plea bargain and reduced charges if it appears the prosecution has an air-tight case.