Certain jokes can be construed in a different light without the right context. Statements such as “I wish you would jump off a bridge,” or “Why don’t you just kill yourself already?” can result in legal trouble, particularly if the person those phrases were directed to actually commits suicide.
In 2017, a Massachusetts woman named Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending a flurry of text messages to Conrad Roy III, her boyfriend at the time, encouraging him to kill himself. Roy committed suicide by filling his vehicle up with carbon monoxide.
In California, it is a criminal offense to deliberately encourage, advise, or otherwise aid someone else to end their own life. The prosecution must prove that you either helped another person commit suicide or encouraged or advised a person to commit the act in order to obtain a felony conviction.
Penalties for encouraging suicide in California include:
- A prison sentence of up to three years
- A maximum $10,000 fine
Common forms of evidence besides text messages include emails, messages on social media platforms, and voicemails. Additionally, witnesses who discover the correspondence between the defendant and plaintiff is another valuable source of evidence.
If you have been charged with advising someone to commit suicide, the following are several defenses available:
- You did not deliberately attempt to assist – If you didn’t intentionally encourage or otherwise aid another person to end their own life, you cannot be convicted of the offense.
- The victim did not deliberately attempt to commit suicide – If the person who committed suicided did so on accident, you cannot be convicted of the crime.
- You are facing false accusations – Others falsely accused you of the crime.
- You only discussed the suicide – If you only just spoke with the victim before he/she committed suicide, it is not a crime because you didn’t provide encouragement or the tools to do so.