While prostitution may not be the world's oldest profession, historical records show that it's been around since at least the 18th century BCE. Currently, Nevada is the only state which allows for some type of legalized prostitution, but only in certain counties and only in licensed brothels. Everywhere else in the country, paying for or providing sexual services for compensation is a crime. Depending on the state, this crime is alternately known as either prostitution, solicitation of prostitution, or by similar terms.
Depending on the state, solicitation of prostitution can mean either when a prostitute advertises his or her availability to perform sexual acts for compensation, or when a potential patron offers to pay for sex. This means that a person can be charged for the solicitation of prostitution whether the person intends to pay someone else to provide sex, or a person intends to receive compensation for sexual acts.
Solicitation occurs whenever a person uses words, actions, or any type of conduct in an attempt to engage in an act of prostitution. The law does not require you to actually engage in the intended conduct, and anyone who simply offers to engage in sex for money -- or any other kind of compensation -- has committed solicitation of prostitution. However, the solicitation actions must go beyond simple displays, availability, or common communications. You must openly seek to engage in prostitution in order to be convicted of solicitation of prostitution. Solicitation can also mean any overt attempt to entice or induce another person to commit prostitution.
Solicitation of prostitution is a specific intent crime. This means that in order to convict an offender, the prosecution must show the offender made a serious attempt to engage in prostitution by either offering money for sexual acts or providing sex acts for compensation. You cannot be convicted of solicitation if you only make an offer as a joke or without any intent to ever follow through with either making a payment or providing sexual acts. Specific intent is typically proven by the circumstances surrounding the case. For example, an offer to pay cash for sexual acts is typically enough to prove solicitation.
Courts have held that a prosecutor does not have to show that a specific offer to engage in prostitution occurred. It's enough, for example, for a person to list prices for different acts, or for the two people to negotiate a price. It also doesn't matter who makes the first move. Anyone who makes an offer can be convicted of solicitation, as can anyone who chooses to start negotiating prices.
Solicitation of prostitution is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense, though felony charges are possible in some states and in some situations. Misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felony crimes and have less significant penalties associated with them. However, the specific penalty a court chooses to impose for any conviction of solicitation of prostitution can differ widely depending on the state and the circumstances of the case. Felony solicitation charges typically only arise when a person is a repeat offender or when a person commits a solicitation if he or she has HIV.
Being accused of solicitation of prostitution is extremely serious, even if the potential criminal penalties you face are not. A solicitation charge can ruin your reputation, your marriage, and have permanent repercussions on your life even if you are never convicted. Also, police can arrest people for solicitation of prostitution based on incredibly thin evidence. If you are ever charged with a solicitation crime you need to speak to a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A local attorney who is familiar with police practices, local judges, and who knows the local prosecutors is the only person who can provide you with legal advice about your case.