Suicide: Be Careful What You Say

Many people have some connection with suicide, and few would endorse it as a good choice. However, what some people may not know is the state can prosecute a person for someone else's suicide if it thinks the accused encouraged or otherwise aided the act. Anytime a criminal charge is a possibility, a criminal defense attorney should be retained to secure the best possible outcome. The type of acts under consideration here are not those associated with medically-assisted suicide that occurs under the direction of a licensed physician, but words or actions performed by others, usually family or friends, that allegedly provoke someone's death. Teenagers are particularly prone to depression and thoughts of suicide, and a recent criminal trial that made the national news relates to the suicide of an 18-year-old in 2014. The man's then-girlfriend was convicted of manslaughter this week based upon texts she sent him as he asphyxiated himself in a parking lot. The acts took place in Massachusetts, which does not have a law against encouraging suicide, and prosecutors choose to pursue manslaughter charges to account for this legal gap. While this verdict may be unique to Massachusetts, it still sets a disturbing precedent that should concern everyone. A discussion of California's law against aiding a suicide, and possible legal defenses to this charge, will follow below.

Aiding a Suicide

In California, it is not a crime to commit suicide, but it is a crime to deliberately aid, advise or encourage someone else to commit suicide. Basically, if someone is alleged to have helped someone kill themselves, i.e., obtained the pills, or actively encouraged them to do so, he/she could face charges for aiding a suicide. This offense is taken seriously, and is classified as a felony that brings the potential for supervised probation, up to 3 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted. Note that if a person encourages suicide, but the attempt is unsuccessful or aborted, he/she can still face charges. Further, aiding a suicide charges apply to defendants suspected of helping another commit suicide. Note, though, that if a person asks another to kill him/her, and the other person follows through, that is considered murder, and not aiding a suicide since the death was due to the action of someone else.

Legal Defenses to Criminal Charges

The main issue that the prosecution must prove before a person may be founding guilty of aiding a suicide is that the defendant's actions were deliberate or intentional. In legal terms, this means the prosecution must prove the defendant had criminal intent when he/she acted. Thus, a common defense to this charge is to say there was no intent to help someone commit suicide. For example, the accused may be have believed a conversation about suicide was hypothetical, or about the morality of such acts. Alternatively, the defendant may not have known that the rope, pills, gun, etc., supplied to the deceased were going to be used in this way. The deceased could have misled the accused about the need for the requested items, or failed to explain what their intended use was.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal charges should never be ignored or taken lightly. The longer a person accused of a crime takes to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, the less time the attorney has to build a strong defense. Los Angeles' Manshoory Law Group, APC understands how overwhelming criminal charges are, and are here to help you navigate the criminal justice system. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Call us today for a free consultation.

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