Everyone knows that if you commit a crime, you can be punished. However, what happens if you persuade someone else to commit a crime?

Persuading or convincing someone to commit a crime is commonly known as solicitation. If you persuade someone to commit a felony or a federal crime, you can face jail time or other penalties — even if that person never goes through with it.

But what technically qualifies as solicitation?

We’ll discuss some of the details of solicitation, how it is defined, its potential penalties and legal defense strategies that can be used against solicitation charges blow. If you’re facing charges of solicitation to commit a federal crime or would like more information about your rights and legal options, the Helfend Law Group is available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call 800-834-6434 for a free consultation.

What does it mean to solicit a crime?

Solicitation involves persuading someone else to commit a felony offense. The crime that is being solicited is referred to as a “target offense.” For example, if a person wrongs you and you offer someone money to kidnap that person’s family member, kidnapping would be the target offense and the offer of money as a persuasive tactic would constitute solicitation. The person you persuaded to do the kidnapping would only be charged for kidnapping if they went through with it.

However, you could be found guilty of solicitation whether they went through with it or not. If the target offense is a federal crime, then you can be charged with federal solicitation. 

Two common types of solicitation are, “solicitation of a crime of violence” and “solicitation of a minor.” These crimes are defined under individual federal statutes. 

Solicitation of a crime of violence – 18 U.S.C. § 373

In cases of federal solicitation, it is common for the target offense to be a crime of violence. A violent crime is one that involves force or threat of force, such as murder, rape, armed robbery, or aggravated assault. Solicitation to commit a crime of violence is covered under 18 U.S. Code § 373 as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984.

Solicitation of a minor – 18 U.S.C. § 2422

Soliciting a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity is defined under a separate statute from other types of solicitation. According to 18 U.S. Code § 2422, coercing or enticing a person under 18 years of age to travel in interstate or foreign commerce to engage in unlawful sexual activity, including prostitution, is a federal offense.

Examples of 18 U.S. Code § 2422 violations include:

  • Transporting minors across state lines with the intent for them to engage in unlawful sexual activity
  • Traveling to another state to engage in unlawful sexual activity with a minor
  • Coercing or persuading a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity over the internet or via the mail

It is important to note that you can be convicted of violating 18 U.S. Code § 2422 if you believed that the person you solicited was a minor, whether or not they actually were. Additionally, you don’t need to have sex with anyone to be found guilty of solicitation. 

How is solicitation proven in court?

The things that a prosecutor must prove for a defendant to be found guilty of an offense are known as the “elements of the crime.” The two elements of federal solicitation are:

  1. The defendant intended for someone else to commit a felony crime
  2. The defendant persuaded, commanded, or induced another person to commit a felony crime

In order to make a conviction, the federal prosecutor to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that solicitation occurred and that it was intentional. 

Solicitation is not the only crime that involves the planning or plotting of a criminal act. A crime that involves the planning or preparation of another offense is referred to as an “inchoate crime.” You can be convicted of an inchoate crime even if the target offense is never actually carried out. Two inchoate crimes related to solicitation are “conspiracy” and “incitement.”


One of the most frequently charged federal crimes is conspiracy. Conspiracy is the planning or plotting of an illegal act, usually by a group of people. Both solicitation and conspiracy involve a plan to commit an underlying “target offense.” The main difference between solicitation and conspiracy is the intention and participation of the parties involved. In the case of solicitation, it is only necessary for one person to request that another commit a crime. In a conspiracy, everyone involved intends for the target offense to be carried out.


The terms “incitement” and “solicitation” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are statutes that cover specific types of incitement, including:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2383, incitement of an insurrection or rebellion against the federal government
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2102, incitement of a riot

Penalties for solicitation to commit a federal crime

If you’re found guilty of federal solicitation, your punishment depends on the crime that you solicited. Penalties for solicitation are equal to half of the penalties for the target offense. For example, the maximum sentence for kidnapping is 20 years in prison. Therefore, if you’re convicted of soliciting a kidnapping, you could face up to 10 years in prison. 

If a target offense is punishable by a life sentence, the maximum prison term for soliciting that crime is 20 years. 

If you’ve been accused of soliciting a federal crime, it is possible to fight the charges against you. It is important that you work with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who can determine the strongest possible defense strategy based on the facts of your case. Below are some of the most common legal defenses against federal solicitation charges. 

  • Lack of intent or knowledge – if you can demonstrate that you didn’t intend for another person to commit an illegal act, or you were not aware that the act you were encouraging was illegal, you may be able to avoid a solicitation conviction. 
  • The act wasn’t solicited – you are only guilty of solicitation of you meant to persuade another person to commit a crime. Let’s say, for example, that you are angry at your ex-wife and, while venting to your best friend, you state that you wish her house would burn down. If your friend then decides to set fire to the house, you are not guilty of soliciting arson. Even though your comment may have inspired your friend to commit a crime, you did not intentionally persuade them to do so. 
  • Changing your mind – even if you initially solicit a crime, you may still avoid a conviction if you changed your mind and prevented the crime from occurring. Usually, this requires you to have contacted law enforcement to ensure that the person you solicited doesn’t go through with it. A judge may not consider it enough to have taken back the request. 
  • Mistaken identity – in cases where the request was not made in person, it is possible that you may be mistakenly accused of solicitation. For example, if a conversation encouraging someone to commit a crime took place on the internet or through an instant messaging app, you may have been falsely identified as the one sending the messages.
  • Entrapment – if law enforcement coerced you into soliciting a crime when you otherwise wouldn’t have, you may be able to have your charges dropped.

Expert federal criminal defense attorney

If you’ve been charged with a federal offense, the Helfend Law Group can provide you with expert advice and a strong legal defense. Based in Los Angeles and representing federal clients nationwide, attorney Robert M. Helfend has more than 30 years of experience working in both state and federal courtrooms. Our legal team understands that facing federal charges can be a daunting experience. That’s why we are dedicated to putting your mind at ease while aggressively defending your rights and freedom. Call today for a free consultation – 800-834-6434.

Published February 13, 2024.