December 8, 2020 | Criminal Defense
Suicide is a serious health problem in the United States. It was the tenth leading cause of death in 2018. Over 48,000 people committed suicide that year.
Suicide is defined as taking your life by causing harm to yourself with the intent of ending your life. Since suicide involves someone taking their own life through their own acts, could another person be charged with a crime related to suicide?
- Reckless homicide
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Causing homicide
- Assisting suicide
Therefore, if you caused or assisted with a suicide, you could be charged with a crime in Indiana. The punishments for helping someone commit suicide or causing suicide can be severe.
How Does the Law Define Causing Homicide?
The law defines the crime of causing homicide as intentionally causing a person to commit suicide through force, deception, or duress.
Therefore, if someone threatens to shoot a person if they do not jump off a building, that would be considered causing suicide. The person did not touch the victim or shoot the victim, but the person’s actions intentionally caused the victim to take his own life.
Another example of causing suicide could be a suicide pact. The person intentionally deceives the victim into thinking that both of them will commit suicide. However, the intent is to trick the victim into killing themselves.
Duress might include bullying someone or harassing someone to the point that the person takes their own life. It could also involve telling someone that they are worthless, and they should kill themselves.
The facts and circumstances of the case are judged on a case-by-case basis to determine if the defendant’s actions meet the definition of using duress, force, or deception to cause another person to take their life.
How Does the Law Define Assisting Suicide?
Assisting suicide involves helping someone commit suicide. A charge of assisting suicide requires that the defendant had knowledge that someone intended to commit suicide and did one of the following two things:
- The defendant intentionally provided the physical means for the victim to commit or attempt to commit suicide, OR,
- The defendant participated in the physical act that resulted in the victim’s suicide or attempted suicide
There are some exceptions to this law. A health care provider who gives medication to decrease a person’s pain is exempt unless the medication was given with the intent of causing death. Withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging procedures by a health care provider according to a power of attorney, health care consent, or living will is also exempt from the assisting suicide statute.
What are the Punishments for Assisting Suicide and Causing Suicide in Indiana?
Causing suicide is a Level 3 felony. The sentencing range for a Level 3 felony is three to 16 years in prison. You could also face a fine of up to $10,000.
Assisting suicide is charged as a Level 5 felony. Level 5 felonies have a sentencing range of one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Each felony has an advisory sentence that falls within the sentencing range. The length of the sentence depends on numerous factors. If you have a criminal record or there are aggravating factors in your case, a judge can sentence you to the maximum penalty for the crime.
Defenses to Charges of Assisting Suicide or Causing Suicide
An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the charges against you and develop a defense strategy based on the facts and circumstances in your case. You could have one or more strong defenses to charges of assisting suicide or causing suicide. Potential defenses that might apply in your case include:
- An Accident – The victim’s death was an accident. There was no intent to commit suicide, and the person never attempted to commit suicide.
- Lack of Intent – You did not intend to encourage or help someone commit suicide. There was no deliberate act on your part related to the suicide.
- False Allegations – Other individuals are falsely accusing you of assisting with or causing a suicide.
There could be other technical defenses based on violations of your legal rights during the investigation or your arrest.
If you are accused of helping someone or forcing someone to commit suicide, you should take the charges seriously. You could face significant prison time for a conviction. As with any criminal charges, it is best to avoid talking to the police or anyone else except for a criminal defense lawyer.