Can You Be Prosecuted for Causing Someone’s Suicide in California?
December 14, 2023 | Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law
Discussing the topic of suicide is admittedly sensitive and challenging, but it’s crucial to understand how legal statutes apply in these scenarios. California law has particular provisions when it comes to aiding someone’s suicide, leading to severe consequences if a party can be proven legally responsible for another individual’s decision to end their life.
It Is a Crime To Assist or Encourage Someone To Commit Suicide in California
Under California law, it is indeed a criminal offense to assist or encourage another person to commit suicide. This can mean providing either physical means or emotional support for someone else’s suicide attempt. In order to secure a conviction for assisting suicide under California law, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt two crucial elements:
- Someone attempted or successfully committed suicide; and
- The accused deliberately aided, advised, or encouraged the person to take their own life.
Here are some examples that illustrate violations of this law:
Providing Lethal Substances
A wife purchases sleeping pills with the knowledge that her husband probably intends to use them to take his own life. In this case, she may be criminally liable.
Offering Support for a Terminal Illness Suicide
Even in situations where empathy might seem justifiable – like helping a terminally ill friend end their life – California law still could see this as illegal.
As you can see, under California law, any actions taken to assist or encourage suicide, even seemingly minor and understandable ones, can lead to serious legal consequences.
Murder vs. Causing Someone’s Suicide
While a passive role in someone’s suicide could lead to assisting suicide charges, a more active role in a person’s suicide could result in homicide charges. For example, if you’re caring for a terminally ill patient experiencing severe pain and you deliberately administer a lethal dose of medication leading to their death, this could lead to serious charges, even if the person wanted to end their life.
Penalties for Causing Someone’s Suicide
The consequences of causing someone’s suicide are severe under California law. The charge is a felony, and if convicted, you could face up to three years in jail.
Long-term incarceration is not inevitable – the judge has the discretion to sentence defendants to formal probation instead. This conditional release allows individuals to avoid serving time in prison if they comply with set rules imposed by the court throughout their probation period.
Legal Defenses to Assisted Suicide Charges
To contest a charge of assisted suicide under California law, several viable defenses can be raised based on the circumstances surrounding your case. Here are some potential defenses:
No Deliberate Intent
Using this defense strategy, there is an argument that you did not undertake any deliberate effort to aid or encourage the person to commit suicide. For example, if you left your prescription medications in your bathroom and someone took them to end their life without your knowledge, this would not be considered a deliberate act on your part.
Protection Under the End of Life Option Act
California’s End of Life Option Act allows terminally ill adults to end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs if appropriate conditions apply. This law provides protection for those acting within the scope of the provisions, like doctors and caregivers, as long as they adhere strictly to all legal requirements.
No Suicide Attempt Made
The defendant could assert that they did encourage a person to commit suicide, but the individual didn’t actually go through with any attempt. Since no real act towards suicide was taken by the potential victim, this can serve as a defense against the charges.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Protect your Rights
If you or a loved one is facing accusations related to causing someone else’s suicide in California, please seek immediate legal help. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide and support you throughout this process; contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a California criminal defense lawyer.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law Today For Help.
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