Suicide remains a serious health risk for the American population. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it’s the 12th leading cause of death in the US, with 45 979 Americans dying by suicide in 2020 and a further 1.2 million attempted suicides that same year.
While there is an underlying problem related to mental well-being, another cause for concern is where people assist in suicide. So, can you go to jail for making someone kill themself?
Is Suicide Illegal in California?
It’s not illegal for someone to kill themselves in California. The state has The End of Life Option Act which permits an individual to take their life using prescribed medications. However, recent cases in the media, particularly involving young people sending text messages, have prompted people to question: ‘if someone kills themselves because of you, can you go to jail?’
How Does the Law Define Causing Homicide?
Homicide is defined as the killing of one human being by another. However, many different categories fall under homicide, such as manslaughter, and first-degree or second-degree murder, depending on the circumstances of the death.
How Does the Law Define Assisted Suicide?
In the United States, the law defines assisted death as a practice by which a terminally ill person – said to be of sound mind but with a prognosis of six months or less – administers barbituates to end their life. However, this would differ from assisting in suicide or encouraging someone to kill themselves.
What Are the Types of Assisted Suicide?
- Assisted suicide is where you intentionally help another person to kill themselves, usually by providing them with potent sedatives. Many people have opted to go to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal.
- Euthanasia, on the other hand, is the act of helping someone end their life as a way to stop their pain. This can be administered by a medical professional via lethal injection.
- Unlike assisted suicide and euthanasia, assisted dying would only apply to terminally ill people. This gives them some choice in the manner and timing of their death.
Is Telling Someone to Kill Themselves a Crime?
While assisted suicide might be legal in certain countries, it’s considered a felony offense in the state of California, where an individual makes a conscious decision to help another person in committing suicide.
What Is Punishment for Assisting Suicide?
If you have told someone to kill themself or assisted in suicide in any other way, then the state will first have to find proof that you are actually guilty of a crime. In addition, they would have to find evidence that indicates that a person actually attempted to commit suicide in the first place.
Further to this, the state would need to prove your actions were thought-out and that you actively encouraged or assisted in that suicide. If you are found guilty, you could face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $10 000. In cases where the individual survives the suicide attempt, you can only be charged with attempting to assist in a suicide.
What Is the Differentiation Between Murder And Suicide?
Things could get even more difficult if you physically assisted in helping someone kill themself, as you could then face murder charges. The statute in California refers to when you are not actively involved in encouraging or assisting in a suicide – or suicide attempt. This could be as seemingly innocent as supplying them with prescription medication or explaining specific ways in which to take their own life.
However, if you have a more active role in the suicide – which is where you provide them with the means to commit suicide or have a hand in it yourself – then you could be at risk of charges related to murder.
Must I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you are accused of encouraging or helping someone kill themself, you would need to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in this field. They will discuss the situation with you and develop some possible defense options. These could include:
- A false allegation
- Lack of intent
- Considering end-of-life
The reality is that you can go to jail for making someone kill themself, as it is illegal. You will need to hire a criminal defense attorney if this is the case. Contact our lawyers today to find out more.