While statements such as “Sometimes I wish you would jump off a bridge” or “Why don't you just kill yourself?” may appear to be jokes, they take on a whole new meaning without the right context. This is also true when it comes to helping someone deal with emotional and mental health issues.
This month, a Massachusetts woman named Michelle Carter began serving her 15-month jail sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 for sending her suicidal boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, a plethora of text messages urging him to commit suicide. She was 17 years old at the time, while Roy was 18 when he took his own life by filling his truck with carbon monoxide.
Encouraging Suicide in California
In California, texting another person to “kill yourself” can result in severe criminal consequences. According to state law, it is considered a criminal offense to intentionally encourage, advise, or otherwise aid someone else to commit suicide.
In order to be convicted of assisting, advising, or encouraging suicide, the prosecution must prove that the defendant helped another individual take their own life and encouraged or advised the person to do so. Besides text messages, other forms of evidence include emails, voicemails, and communications through social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.
Aiding in a suicide is a felony conviction, punishable by a maximum three-year prison sentence and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Defenses to Avoid Conviction
Context makes the difference between freedom and imprisonment.
In many text messages revealed during Carter's trial, she urged Roy to commit suicide and scolded him every time he hesitated, such as texting him: “You keep pushing it off and say you'll do it but u never do. It's always gonna be that way if u don't take action.” Clearly, the intent to encourage suicide is obvious.
The following are the common defenses to avoid being convicted of encouraging suicide:
- You didn't mean to encourage or otherwise aid an individual to end their life.
- The person didn't intend to kill himself/herself and the suicide is accidental.
- All you did was speak to the person who committed suicide but didn't discuss anything related to the act.
- You were falsely accused of assisting suicide by others.
If you have just lost a loved one or a friend to suicide and subsequently been accused of a crime, you need an experienced lawyer on your side to guide you through this emotionally trying time and help you clear your name. Our Ventura criminal defense attorneys at Wilfert Law P.C. can protect those who are facing charges for encouraging suicide.
Contact us and schedule a free consultation for more information today.