December 3, 2021 | Kentucky Law
You can be prosecuted for causing or assisting someone’s suicide in Kentucky. This is a serious felony crime and carries stiff penalties. Kentucky does not even allow doctors to carry out euthanasia or mercy killing.
Suicide and depression are public health crises in America. If someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you should recommend they seek help from mental health professionals and suicide prevention resources. You should never encourage or assist a suicide in any way.
What is the Crime Causing or Assisting a Suicide in Kentucky?
The reason why someone can be prosecuted for causing a suicide in Kentucky is Statute 216.302. This statute describes what conduct is prohibited. The elements of criminally causing a suicide are:
- The defendant;
- By force OR duress;
- Causes another person to attempt or commit suicide
You may be wondering what duress is. Duress is engaging in coercive behavior to get someone to do something they would not otherwise do. Emotional manipulation such as encouraging someone to commit suicide could qualify as duress and subject someone to prosecution.
The elements of criminally assisting a suicide, on the other hand, are:
- The defendant;
- With the purpose of assisting someone in committing or attempting suicide;
- Knowingly AND
- Provides the physical means by which someone attempts or commits suicide OR participates in a physical act by which someone attempts or commits suicide.
In a prosecution for causing or assisting suicide, the state would need to prove every individual element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. They would use search warrants and subpoenas to obtain evidence that helps them prove each element. For example, text messages could prove someone helped another prepare and plan a suicide attempt.
Some people mistakenly think that a suicide or suicide attempt is treated differently under the law if someone is terminally ill. This is not true — Kentucky law expressly forbids assisting anyone, including the terminally ill, with a suicide attempt or euthanasia.
Other Crimes Related to Suicide
Other crimes could also be charged in a prosecution for assisting or causing a suicide. These include Reckless Homicide, Manslaughter, and Murder. These are all crimes charged when a defendant’s actions resulted in the death of someone else.
If the victim is deceased, they can’t tell prosecutors and police that they committed suicide. Not all victims leave a suicide note. Therefore, a suicide could look like a homicide to them. If someone is suicidal, it is crucial to get them the mental health resources they need and not participate or encourage a suicide in any way.
What are the Penalties for Causing or Assisting a Suicide?
The penalties for assisting or causing a suicide in Louisville are severe. Causing a suicide is a Class C Felony. Assisting a suicide is a Class D Felony.
A Class C Felony is punishable by a minimum of five years in prison and ten years maximum. On top of prison time, a defendant could face a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 or double what was gained from the crime. Gaining from this crime could be a doctor accepting payment for assisting suicide or if someone assisted suicide and stood to gain money or property from the death.
A Class D Felony is punishable by a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of five years. Additionally, the same fine described for the Class C Felony could be imposed.
While it can be difficult to watch a terminally ill loved one suffer, the State of Kentucky has made it clear that assisted suicide is illegal and not an option.