Aiding suicide attracts severe penalties in California. Anyone accused of this crime can end up serving three years in the State Prison and a huge fine. Hence, it is recommendable to seek professional legal services to have your case dismissed or reduced by the court. Leah Legal’s years of experience provide an opportunity to offer the best legal services to anyone prosecuted of aiding suicide in Van Nuys.
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Definition and Elements of the Crime
Anything to do with aiding suicide is prosecuted and convicted under California Penal Code Section 401. For a prosecutor to successfully charge someone with assisted suicide, he or she should prove that a person committed or attempted suicide. The prosecutor should also show that the defendant deliberately helped, advised, or encouraged the person to do so.
In a situation where the person helps someone in suicide but fails to achieve the intended results, the aiding party is not guilty of PC 401. In such a case, one will be charged with attempted crimes under Penal Code 664.
Based on such an argument, different questions arise in this statute. These questions include:
- If suicide is a crime
- mercy killings
- the End of Life Option Act
- The difference between aiding someone suicide and murder
Suicide as a Crime in California
Committing suicide is not a Californian crime. However, there are situations when a person can be charged under this statute during a failed suicide attempt. This is common when there is a suicide pact. A suicide pact is considered when two or more people concur to kill themselves, and there is one mean for both parties to die.
An example of a suicide pact includes two people agreeing to commit suicide by driving a vehicle off a cliff or two people committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In both situations, one party will be guilty of assisted suicide due to the suicide pact if he or she survives the attempt while the other party dies.
Mercy killings can be defined as taking someone else's life as a way of fulfilling their wish. This action is usually performed when one decides to take a large painkilling drug dose. It is a crime to commit mercy killing in California. It is considered as euthanasia and applies in all the fifty states.
End of Life Option Statute
The End of Life Option statute is a physician-assisted dying law that applies in California, which came into effect in 2006. According to this statute, patients may request life-ending medications through a physician’s prescription.
The law only allows a physician to prescribe the medications. If a physician gives the drug to the person, this would be considered a criminal act of euthanasia.
If a person intends to commit suicide under this statute, he or she must fulfill the following requirements.
- Must be a Californian residence with a minimum of eighteen years
- Must have an irreversible disease that will lead to death within six months based on a sound medical judgment
- Must be able to make the medical decision all alone and must request an aid-in-dying drug
- Should be able to administer the medication by himself or herself.
Meaning of Aiding, Encouraging or Advising Suicide
When one is accused of encouraging, aiding, or advising suicide, he or she probably counseled, persuaded, or recommended the person to commit suicide. It also means that the defendant provided the person with the necessary knowledge, tools, lethal doses of drugs, with the carnal knowledge that they will be used to commit suicide.
Comparison between Assisted Suicide and Murder
Assisting or encouraging suicide is different from murder. The difference arises from the active or passive role that a defendant took in committing the crime. For instance, if you furnished the means that another person would die, this becomes a passive role and will make you guilty of Penal Code 401.
However, if you participated in causing the demise of another person, then this is considered as an active role and will put guilty of murder.
Penalties for Aiding a Suicide in California
Violating Penal Code 401 is a felony in California. The crime is punishable by State Prison custody for a maximum of three years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both penalties.
The judge can also award you with a formal or felony probation in place of your prison term.
Formal or Felony Probation
Felony probation can be defined as an alternative for prison sentencing in California. It provides an opportunity for felons to serve their part of the sentence out of custody under a probation officer’s supervision. Since anyone convicted for aiding suicide is eligible for felony probation, it is necessary to know about this kind of probation and how it works.
When someone is on probation, he or she should follow certain conditions. Common felony probation conditions that are imposed on felons include:
- Meeting with the probation officer
- Performance in a community service
- Agreeing to submit to police searches
- Agreeing not to violate any laws
The above-stated conditions are just a few examples that the judge can consider. There are other types of requirements that might be imposed on you if the judge finds them reasonable and logically related to the offense you commit.
If you violate any terms imposed on you, the court will consider holding a probation violation hearing. During the trial, the court can decide to warn you and reinstate the probation condition, include harsher conditions or revoke the probation. If your probation is canceled, you will have to spend your time in the state prison.
Legal Defenses for Violating California Penal Code 401
Once you hire an attorney, it means that he or she should prepare legal defenses against your accusations. A professional attorney should use legal arguments that are relevant to the allegations at hand and have high chances of helping in winning the case. Here are some of the legal defenses that your attorney should consider.
A false accusation can be a suitable legal defense if you can prove that you are not guilty of aiding a suicide committed by someone. False accusation usually results from mistaken identity, official misconduct, misrecollection, and malicious false allegation. In such a situation, your attorney should file for a pre-file investigation to determine whether the alleged accusation is false or true. If the investigation can accurately conclude that you were falsely accused, your charges will be dropped.
Lack of Deliberate Intent
Under Penal Code 401, you should deliberately aid, encourage, or advise someone to commit suicide to be guilty of the accusation. The term knowingly means that you specifically intended to do something.
However, if you did not intend to assist the other person into suicide, you can use your situation as a defense. For instance, if you accidentally caused someone to take his or her life, this does not imply that you aided him or her to commit suicide, making a good defense for your accusations.
No Intent by the Person who Committed Suicide
For the prosecutor to prove guilt for an attempt or committing suicide, he or she must prove that a person undertook the action. However, if there is no proof that the person had attempted suicide, you cannot be prosecuted under this statute. Such instances are common when you provide information on how to take a life, and the recipient decides to use them without your knowledge.
Mere Suicide Discussions
Mere talking with someone about suicide cannot be considered as a crime. You might be prompted to discuss suicide with someone only to find out that the person took the information and committed suicide. However, if you encouraged and provided the necessary tools to do so, you will be guilty of the offense.
Actions were Per the End of Life Option Statute
If you are a doctor, you might be charged under this statute if you prescribe life-ending medications and help the patient take the pills. However, if you employ all the requirements needed in this statute, you will be innocent of these accusations.
Alibi can be defined as demonstrating that you were in a different place from the scene of the crime. It is easy for a defendant to use this defense without giving up your constitutional right to remain silent. You might rely on witnesses or pieces of evidence to demonstrate that you were in a different location, but it would be easy to testify it by yourself.
You can use different ways to prove your absence from the scene of the crime. This includes using evidence such as receipts, debit card information, surveillance footage, and other methods to prove your innocence.
Coercion involves the use of threats and violence to intimidate someone into a particular behavior. In this case, you might be forced by another person to aid someone to take life as a way to get back on him or her. While using coercion as a legal defense, you have the burden of proving that there were threats for death or bodily injury, a reasonable fear to execute a threat, and there was no reasonable opportunity to avoid it. Once you have proved these elements of coercion, you might prompt the court to dismiss your case.
There are different ways you can prove police misconduct. Typical forms of police misconduct include false arrest, committing perjury, unlawful detention, excessive force, racial profiling. If you can manage to associate your conviction for aiding suicide to any of the stated police misconducts, you can have your case dismissed by the court. It is complicated to prove any form of police misconduct, but with the help of a professional attorney, it is easy to handle the case.
Intoxication is a long shot towards disapproving your sentence in court, but it can be successful when well presented. In most cases, involuntary intoxication is the best approach in this kind of legal argument. All you need to prove is that your actions to aid someone into suicide was done out of involuntary intoxication. The basis of your intoxication can be someone trying to get back to you by ensuring that you help someone commit suicide.
Violation of your Constitutional Rights
The Miranda warning should be spoken during your arrest. A police officer or other official must tell you the full Miranda warning to warn you about your rights and not to say anything that implies that you are guilty. The Miranda warning provides the following rights to an arrestee.
- The right to remain silent
- Anything that you said will be used against in court
- The right to an attorney
- Appointment of an attorney if you cannot afford one
This means that you are not required to speak to the police officer, but you can request for an attorney. If the police officer violates the Miranda warning requirements, the evidence collected during your arrest might not be relevant. Please note, this does not entirely mean that your case will be dismissed in court.
Another instance that officers might violate your constitutional rights is by conducting an unlawful search and seizure in your property. In this case, the investigation team is usually involved in a property search without a search warrant. If the prosecution team presents evidence obtained through the unlawful search and seizure, it might be inadmissible in court.
Although unwarranted search and seizure are considered unlawful, a police officer is allowed to search your property without the warrant when there is suspicion of destroying evidence.
Crimes Related to California Penal Code 401
Several crimes are related to California Penal Code 401. These crimes are either convicted along with the statute or share the same prosecution principals. Here are some of the crimes associated with aiding suicide in California.
Murder: California Penal Code 187
Penal Code 187 is the statute that explains everything related to murder in California. Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice afterthought. Malice afterthoughts imply that the murderer has wanton disregard of human life and did the action with the carnal knowledge that it will lead to death.
Murder can be convicted as first or second-degree. In a first degree, murder carries a sentence for twenty-five years to life imprisonment in the State prison. A first degree is accused when the murder is achieved through a destructive device, using weapons of mass destruction, lying in wait, and torture. One can also be charged with first-degree murder if the murder was done willfully, deliberately, and premeditated. Finally, one can be accused of first-degree murder if it was done in the course of committing a serious California felony.
Other forms of murder are referred to as second-degree and generally carries a fifteen-years to a life sentence in the state prison.
Attempted Murder: California Penal Code 664/187
Under Penal Code 664/187, attempted murder can be defined as an intention to kill someone by taking a direct step towards achieving your aim, but failed to kill the victim. Similar to murder, attempted murder is divided into first and second-degree. Attempted first-degree murder involves a premeditated and willful intention to kill someone, while second-degree attempted murder involves any other form of attempted murder.
If you are accused of attempted first-degree murder, you will face a life sentence in state prison. If you are convicted for attempted second-degree murder, you will be punished by State imprisonment for five, seven, or nine years.
Voluntary Manslaughter: California Penal Code 192(a)
Under California Penal Code 192(a), you can be accused of voluntary manslaughter if you kill someone during a sudden quarrel, during a heat of passion, and based on an honest but unreasonable notion that you needed to defend yourself.
This is a lesser offense compared to murder, and most attorneys try to have their murder charges reduced to it. A conviction carries a maximum of 11 years in State prison, which is lesser than the life, twenty-five, or fifteen years imposed for murder.
Solicitation: California Penal Code 653(f)
Penal Code 653(f) makes it an offense to solicit someone into committing a California criminal offense. Under the statute, one is guilty of the crime if the following elements are correct.
- You request another person to commit a crime which falls under the California criminal solicitation law
- You had the intention to have the crime committed
- The other person receives the information containing the request to commit a crime
The kind of penalties that result from solicitation depends on the crime that one commits. Since murder is quite closer to aiding a suicide, the potential sentence that follows include three, six, or nine years in state prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
Investigation for Aiding a Suicide Conviction
If you are accused of aiding suicide, there has been an investigation, and the results consider you the perpetrator. During the investigation, the primary tools used by police are interviews, interrogations, and collection of physical evidence. Here is a basic procedure that police investigation will take place in your allegation for aiding a suicide.
Investigations at the Crime Scenes
Since alleging that someone aided a suicide is a passive action, the police officer might consider investigating the scene of the crime to collect relevant evidence. The evidence will gather the evidence by interviewing all potential witnesses at the scene, taking pictures, and taking forensic evidence. The investigation team might also make general observations and check for any connection to the crime.
At this time, the police should obey the Fourth Amendment rules that expect them to have a search warrant for your home.
When the police officers are interviewing witnesses, they are trying to establish different facts about your case by figuring out what happened and whether you are responsible. Often, they will interview every witness separately to identify everyone’s recollection of the event.
The police will consider someone with personal knowledge of the crime. This means that one should have been directly involved with you while aiding someone to commit suicide. The police will then carefully document the officers’ statements to ensure that it is available for the prosecutor.
Law Enforcement Observation
One of the critical components of a criminal investigation is observing the scene of the crime. Police officers are trained to observe and notice any details that might indicate your aiding of suicide. One of the aspects that shows your criminal involvement is acting suspiciously once the officers start to interrogate you or are within your presence.
Physical and Forensic Evidence
The investigation team also collects physical evidence at the scene of the crime. This includes photographs, blood samples, fingerprints, and measurements that associate you with the crime. The team collects the evidence with gloves to preserve the prints that might show your relations to the crime.
The evidence will then be placed in a special bag that is correctly marked for easy identification. This will help maintain a chain of custody for every evidence to establish the whole investigation process.
The most effective tool used by the investigation team is interrogation. This process intends to try to get a confession from the suspects. Forensic evidence might be a useful tool in determining whether you are guilty, but it is quite expensive and time consuming compared with custodial interrogation. Interrogations are faster and cheaper, which cuts down the time and expenses used in the whole process.
During the interrogation, a skilled interrogator is used. These professionals have the skills of studying human behavior and body language to decide whether one is lying or not. They also know how to pose the right questions that will prompt you into a confession. Meanwhile, the police officer will try to violate your Miranda or constitutional rights while obtaining a confession.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
You can end up facing the legal consequences for aiding a suicide if you enter into a trial without the help of a professional criminal attorney. We at Leah Legal are at the forefront in helping people facing prosecution for aiding suicide and other crimes in Van Nuys. We will apply our legal expertise to help you win your case from the time we receive your phone call. To learn more about us, feel free to call us anytime at 818-484-1100, and get immediate assistance.