Suicide is among the 11th highest causes of death in the US. It shows how rampant the act is and the efforts people should make to reduce the number and protect their loved ones. It’s even sadder if there was an external influence or pressure on the person to commit suicide. Some states and countries consider this a felony. But can you go to jail for making someone kill themself?
All states in the US will charge you for assisted suicide or causing homicide if found encouraging someone to take their life. The evidence should elaborate on how you encouraged or provided the means to commit suicide. These charges range from a class 3 to class 5 felony leading to up to 16 years in prison or a hefty fine.
Is Suicide Illegal in California?
Taking your life in the US isn’t considered a crime. However, attempted or assisted suicide is a crime in the country. States can allow you to take an end-of-life permit where you can end your life using prescribed medication. Some medical conditions could also necessitate ending your life in long-term illnesses.
However, other countries consider suicide a crime. Though they can’t charge the dead person, it’s considered a method of sensitizing people against suicide. The results show that it hasn’t been effective. Thus, most decriminalize the activity.
How Does the Law Define Causing Homicide?
This dilemma roots from the law’s definition of homicide. Homicide is when a person kills another. Many types of homicide have different levels and punishments. The law describes causing homicide (in suicide) as encouraging or causing a person to take their life through force, deception, or duress.
Each action should directly lead to a person committing suicide to be considered as causing homicide. The court will analyze the course of events to determine if any of these causes are present before ruling on causing homicide.
Forcing someone to take their own life by giving them an ultimatum, like having them jump over a ledge or stab them, is one way to cause homicide. The demands you make on the victim cause them to commit suicide for fear of being stabbed.
If you lie to someone, which causes them to commit suicide, you’re guilty of causing homicide. For example, if you lie that a certain prescription is a remedy to someone’s pain and they end up overdosing or dying from it, it’s considered as causing homicide.
Also, if you make a pact with another about committing suicide but you don’t proceed with the plan, the court may deem your actions as deception. Any words or acts you twist to fit your narrative and cost someone else’s life could be taken as deception.
Causing homicide due to dress involves bullying or harassing someone into suicide. Pushing a person using hurtful or demeaning words and suggesting they should take their lives to exit this world is a good example of coercion.
How Does the Law Define Assisting Suicide?
Assisting suicide is when you participate physically and intentionally in helping someone to commit suicide. You can provide the needed physical tools for the person to commit suicide by buying or organizing how they’ll get the items.
However, the court must establish your intent and motive for promoting the act. You could be innocently providing or supplying the items without knowing their intentions.
The other option is where you actively participated in a suicide victim committing the act. You could have advised and bought them the medication or helped them jump from the building. This cause requires hard evidence, which puts you on the scene at the time of suicide.
There are exemptions to the law:
- If a medical practitioner switches off life support machines at the request or wishes of the caregiver, power of attorney, or loved ones, then the case of assisted suicide doesn’t stand.
- A healthcare provider who gives the victim medication to reduce their pain without the intention of killing them also gets exempted.
What Are the Types of Assisted Suicide?
There are three types of assisted suicide in the medical world:
- Assisted suicide – Intentionally helping someone end their life by providing them with potent sedatives. It is illegal and unacceptable in the US.
- Euthanasia – You use lethal injection to end someone’s life to stop their pain and suffering.
- Assisted dying – This applies to terminally ill people that have 6 months or less to live. It allows the sick to choose how and when they’d wish to die.
What Are The Punishments for Assisting Suicide?
Is it illegal to tell someone to kill themself? Assisted suicide cases aren’t crimes in some countries. However, some states deem these actions as level 3 to level 5 felonies. The punishments range from three years in prison or $10,000 in fines to 16 years in prison for more aggravated cases.
However, you can get maximum penalties depending on your track record and the evidence in your case. Before that, the court has to make a case that your actions led to the victim committing suicide. Three vital pieces of evidence have to be clear in court when charging you with assisting suicide:
- That the victim attempted to commit suicide, and you were actively involved
- That your actions directly led to the victim committing suicide
- That your actions or words were well-planned or organized to cause the victim to commit suicide
Once the court provides the evidence to affirm these points, the jury will provide an advisory sentence based on the felonies. The jury could consider your track record, especially if you have previous faults or cases that aggravate your current case. Such factors could increase your fines or jail term.
What Is the Difference Between Murder And Suicide?
Suicide is causing one’s own death, while murder is intentionally causing death or injuries leading to death to another person. People often find it challenging to differentiate between assisted suicide or homicide, murders, or murders in self-defense. Detectives and police have certain indicators that usually guide them in differentiating the two at a crime scene.
For example, if firearms or knives are involved, wounds or stabs on the wrist or chest or gunshot wounds at the side of the head, chest, or chin could indicate suicide. Other factors, such as the weapon’s environment, location, and status, help narrow down the type of murder.
Other causes of taking a life, like hanging or poison, will have subtle signs at the crime scene, like the marks or notes left by the victim. Proper analysis and combing of a crime scene will reveal the details that the detectives can report if it’s a murder or suicide case.
If you’re actively involved in a person committing suicide, you might be charged with a case related to murder. Simple acts like providing extra information on how to use certain medicines or items to commit suicide could land you in a murder-related case.
What Are The Defenses of Assisted Suicide?
Contacting a criminal lawyer once you’re arrested for assisted suicide could save you a jail term. You mustn’t take these charges lightly but go for an experienced criminal lawyer. The criminal lawyer will investigate and analyze your case details to find the best defense.
Here are some potential defenses for assisted suicide cases:
The lawyer can establish that you didn’t have an intent or a motive to cause the person to commit suicide. With the information provided, the lawyer will find a loophole that shows you didn’t offer your help or information deliberately to encourage the person to commit suicide. Without intent on your part, the court won’t have reason to sentence you for assisted suicide.
Another defense is showing that the suicide wasn’t intentional but an accident. If there was no suicide, then the court can’t accuse you of murder. However, the lawyer must compile several pieces of evidence from the crime scene to bring doubt to the suicide case.
The lawyer can argue the case as hearsay from other individuals, which has no basis. This defense is best if there’s no hard evidence of what transpired before the victim committed suicide.
Medical practitioners are usually exempted from the assisted suicide statute. If they can produce evidence that you were acting per your medical code or power of attorney, the lawyer can use this defense in court. The patient could have a written will or power of attorney stating how they would handle them in terminally ill or extreme pain conditions.
Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you’re still worried about being charged with assisted suicide or causing homicide, then you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer will help you understand how and why you can go to jail for making someone kill themself.
They’ll help you build a defense case as you bid to clear your name or set the record straight on your involvement with the suicide case. Either way, they’re best placed to advise you on your case. Contact Garrett T. Rice for help with such cases.