Just what is it that makes an act a crime? Some acts are crimes because they are inherently evil, such as murder, rape, robbery, or arson. Other acts are crimes not because they are necessarily evil, but because they are contrary to an important social objective. For instance, fishing without a license or catching more than the limit is not evil in itself. Laws prohibit this type of thing to preserve natural resources. Other acts – speeding, for instance – are prohibited to protect the safety and welfare of the driving and pedestrian public.

Crimes generally are categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors, although some are treated as only infractions or minor offenses. Felonies are the most serious types of crimes. Originally, only nine crimes were felonies: murder, manslaughter, burglary, robbery, larceny, rape, sodomy, arson, and mayhem (maiming or permanently disfiguring someone). Today, many other crimes are also felonies. The punishment for a felony is stiffer than it is for a misdemeanor. In many states, the punishment for a felony is imprisonment for at least a year (or death in some limited cases), while for a misdemeanor it is for no more than one year in jail.

Attempted Crime-Solicitation

The mere attempt to commit a crime may also be a crime. An attempt to commit a crime normally involves a specific intent. For instance, attempted murder involves the specific intent to kill. If someone’s intent, however, is only to cause serious bodily harm, then he or she cannot be guilty of attempted murder. Because attempt requires a specific intent, it is impossible to attempt a crime that by definition cannot be committed intentionally. For example, involuntary manslaughter cannot be attempted because it requires the wrongdoer to cause death unintentionally.

Another type of criminal behavior is solicitation. Solicitation involves a specific intent to engage in a particular type of criminal conduct. For example: If I offer to pay you $50,000 to kill my business partner, that constitutes solicitation.

Preliminary Crime-Solicitation

You are guilty of solicitation when you ask someone to commit a crime for you, or to help you commit a crime, or when you advise someone on how to commit a crime. The only act required for a crime of solicitation is that of asking or advising the other person to do an illegal act. Although solicitation usually is associated with prostitution, you are guilty of solicitation any time you ask someone to commit any crime for you or advise a person on how it should be done. For example, it is solicitation to ask a person to kill someone or to commit a burglary for you, or to tell him or her how to do it.