When Can You Be Charged With Encouraging Suicide?

Encouraging Suicide
Is it illegal to tell someone to kill themselves? When you can be charged with “assisting a suicide” and which defense strategies can be used to fight these charges? Our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys explain.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that the prosecutor will have to establish any of these two elements by proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order charge you with promoting suicide in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in Pennsylvania:

  1. You assisted someone else in committing suicide; or
  2. You deliberately aided, advised, promoted, or encouraged someone else to end their life.

It often happens that innocent people are convicted of encouraging a suicide because of the text, voicemail, or email they had sent to the deceased prior to his or her suicide. Many people are also wrongly accused of this crime due to the use of witness statements as evidence against them.

But here’s what truly matters.  In order to establish “intentional conduct,” a prosecutor will have to demonstrate evidence that you had conscious objective or purpose to aid, advise, promote, or encourage the victim to take his or her own life.

Thus, if you were (a) merely trying to tease the victim, (b) being sarcastic, (c) merely trying to hurt the victim in an emotional manner without wanting to cause them physical harm, or (d) merely discussing suicide, the prosecution should not be able to charge you with “aiding a suicide” as a crime.

It is true that if you were harassing the victim prior to his or her suicide, you may be charged with criminal harassment, but if you had no actual intent for the victim to act on your encouraging statements to commit suicide, you will most likely be able to escape “assisting a suicide” charges. That is, of course, if you are being represented by a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer.

Defenses To ‘Aiding a Suicide’ Criminal Charge

Why do you need legal assistance when facing “encouraging a suicide” charges in Pittsburgh? For starters, your attorney will be able to identify the most appropriate defense to “promoting a suicide” charge in your particular case. These defenses include but are not limited to:

  • No intentional conduct: You had no deliberate intent to get the victim to act on your “encouraging” statements.
  • The victim had no intent to commit suicide: Although the death of that person may look like attempted suicide, your attorney may be able to prove that the victim died in an accident.
  • False accusations: You are being falsely accused of aiding, advising, promoting, or encouraging suicide.
  • Discussing suicide is not a crime: If you merely discussed suicide with the victim without encouraging or aiding him or her to end his/her life, you cannot be convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania.

Schedule a free consultation with the criminal defense attorneys at SMT Legal.

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