Can You Be Prosecuted For Causing Someone's Suicide in Pennsylvania?

Can You Be Prosecuted For Causing Someone’s Suicide in Pennsylvania?

***Note: This blog article is for informational purposes only. Our law firm does not handle matters outside Pennsylvania. ***

Navigating allegations related to causing or contributing to another person’s suicide can be a complex and emotionally charged process. Not only do these charges carry significant criminal penalties, but they also bear overwhelming emotional implications for everyone involved.

When discussing the legal repercussions around this crime, there are usually two situations that could lead to this charge: causing suicide and assisted suicide. 

Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide refers to a situation where an individual knowingly acts in a thought-out manner designed to help another person take their own life. This concept – sometimes referred to as mercy killing – is often controversial, being legal in only 11 jurisdictions within the U.S.

Causing Suicide

In contrast, there are cases where one person can be held criminally liable for directly driving another individual toward committing suicide by engaging in forceful or deceptive manipulation that coerces suicidal behavior. 

Elements That Must Be Proven For a Conviction For Causing Someone’s Suicide in PA

To successfully convict someone for promoting suicide in Pennsylvania, the prosecution holds a high legal burden

They have to prove two crucial elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That you actively assisted another person in committing suicide – this means that your involvement wasn’t just coincidental or passive, but rather an active facilitation towards the act.
  2. That you knowingly aided, advised, or encouraged this individual’s actions – the prosecution must demonstrate that any advice given was offered explicitly to prompt the other person to commit suicide.

Understanding these requirements is fundamental during defense plans and strategizing.

Penalties For Assisting and Causing Suicide 

Attempting to aid or cause another person to commit suicide is classified as a second-degree felony if your conduct causes suicide or an attempt. A conviction on this charge can lead to significant prison time – up to ten years – alongside hefty fines – up to $25,000.

In situations where a suicide attempt is never actually made, the defendant can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which can lead to up to two years in jail and fine of $5,000. 

Other Charges You Could Face

If an individual persistently harassed the victim prior to their suicide, they might face legal repercussions. If there isn’t any evidence that the defendant intended for the victim to attempt or commit suicide, they may be able to avoid these charges and could instead face a criminal harassment charge.

This could be a third or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances. Penalties could reach up to two years in jail and a fine of $5,000.

If you’ve been arrested for this crime, defending against charges related to causing or aiding suicide requires strategic legal arguments. Here are some defenses that could potentially be applicable:

Absence of Intentional Conduct

For a conviction in Pennsylvania, the prosecutor must prove deliberate intent by the defendant leading towards the victim’s self-harm. Establishing that this wasn’t the case could prove to be a useful defense. 

Your email conversations and social media chats or posts can be used as concrete proof that you never intended to encourage anyone to commit suicide.

Additionally, witnesses might be able to attest that you were supportive or encouraging about life’s challenges as opposed to nudging someone towards taking their own life.

No Intent From the Victim

Another key aspect required for conviction involves establishing that the alleged victim had clear intentions of committing suicide. If evidence indicates otherwise, this shifts the narrative away from the defendant’s alleged culpability.

Evidence could include testimony from friends, family members, or colleagues who can vouch that the individual showed no signs of suicidal thoughts/incidents in their daily interactions.

Additionally, counselor or therapist records could be critically valuable if they confirm that there were no indicators pointing towards suicidal tendencies.

Emails exchanged with friends discussing future plans could also offer insight into a person’s mindset at any given time.

False Accusations

One may argue that the allegations brought against them are not true. For this defense strategy to work effectively, it’s crucial to provide strong evidence or testimonies proving your innocence. 

Discussing Suicide is Not a Crime

While directly persuading someone to commit suicide is criminalized under most jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, simply discussing it isn’t illegal as long as there’s no element of coercion or convincing involved.

Contact a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney If You’ve Been Accused of Causing Someone’s Suicide

As you can see, causing someone’s suicide is a crime in Pennsylvania. There are legal defenses available should you find yourself faced with this accusation, but this can be a complex issue requiring legal help. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced West Chester criminal defense lawyer. 

Contact Our Criminal Defense Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA Criminal Defense lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535