Aid or Abet a Suicide (Assisted Suicide)
PC 401(a) Crimes, Penalties, Defenses
Information on the crime of aiding or abetting a suicide, also known as assisted suicide, is found at California penal code section 401(a).
PC 401(a) Law
Per 401(a) Any person who deliberately aids, advises, or encourages another to commit suicide is guilty of a felony.
Note: Aiding a person in suicide is not necessarily murder. Likewise, attempting to aid someone to commit suicide is not necessarily attempted murder.
Aiding Defined: Aiding means to encourage another person to kill himself or herself or otherwise provides a means for another person to kill himself or herself. Aiding a person in suicide is a purposeful but indirect role in a person death. If the defendant actually kills another person, as opposed to aiding the other person in killing themself, then the defendant is likely to be charged with murder (PC 187), not assisted suicide (PC 401).
For example: If the defendant gives a lethal dose of painkillers to a family member who requested such a dose in order to kill himself the defendant may be found guilty of aiding a suicide; however, if the defendant gives the same lethal dose of painkillers to a family member and the family member does not know of the lethal nature of the painkillers then the defendant may be charged with murder. The defendant may be charged with murder in the second scenario even if the defendant was acting out of mercy towards a family member who was suffering severe pain and who was already on the verge of death (also known as mercy killing or euthanasia).
Note: For purposes of the crime of aiding or abetting a suicide, it does not matter if the manner in which the defendant kills another person is painless or that the victim requests the aid. It also does not matter whether or not the victim is on the verge of death with an incurable disease or injury.
PC 401(a) Punishment
PC 401(a) is charged as a felony in California. The charging code in San Bernardino County is PC401(a)-F. If found guilty of PC 401(a), the defendant could face a maximum of three years in jail. Good conduct credits could reduce any jail sentence by up to 50%.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence, with or without some actual jail or work release time, is allowed in cases of aiding or abetting a suicide. Whether or not the defendant receives a probation sentences after a conviction of PC 401(a) depends largely yon the defendant criminal history and the facts of the fact.
Work release and house arrest options are sometimes allowed if the defendant is granted probation. Good conduct credits, or time off for good behavior, varies depending on whether the defendant serves his or her time behind bars (actual jail) or on work release or house arrest.
Other punishments to PC 401(a) convictions can include: fines, restraining orders, monetary penalties, professional licensing consequences (i.e. doctors, dentists, lawyers, therapist, etc.), immigration consequences (for non U.S. citizens), denial or revocation of military service, loss of family law rights, loss of the right to own firearms, harsh probation terms, and more.
Strike Offense: The crime of aiding or abetting a suicide is not a strike offense in California.
Bail Issues: The presumptive bail amount for PC 401(a) charges is $25,000 in San Bernardino County (2020).
Defenses to Aiding a Suicide
Defenses to the crime of aiding or abetting suicide include: lack of intent to aid the suicide (insufficient evidence), mistake of fact, jury nullification, coerced confessions, insanity, Failure to timely prosecute (Serna Motion), and more. For more information on general defenses to crimes, including PC 401(a) aiding a suicide, see defenses to crimes.
Physician Assisted Suicide (PC 401(b): A person whose actions are compliant with the provisions of the End of Life Option Act...shall not be prosecuted pursuant to PC 401(a). The End of Life Option Act deals with physician assisted suicide.
Note: Many rules and procedures must be followed to ensure that physician assisted suicide, as provided for in Californian Penal Code Section 401(b), and the End of Life Option Act, must be followed. To ensure compliance, visit our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation.
PC 401(a) Post-Conviction Options: After a conviction for assisted suicide, the defendant may have several post-conviction options, including appeal of the conviction, withdraw of a guilty plea, terminate probation early (PC 1203.3), and more.
If you have been charged with the crime of aiding or abetting a suicide (PC 401(a)), contact our criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers will patiently inform you of your rights and available defenses. Our criminal defense lawyers are available seven days a week to assist you. Call today!
Aid or Abet a Suicide Basics
Crime: Aid or Abet a Suicide (Assisted Suicide)
Code: PC 401(a)
Wobbler: PC 401(a) is not a wobbler. PC 401(a) is charged as a felony.
Incarceration: Felony PC 401(a) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years jail (if probation not granted).
Probation: Probation sentence is available in PC 401(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
PC 1170(h)): No. PC 401(a) is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, must be served in state prison (as opposed to county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.
Strike: PC 401(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
Bail: $25,000 (San Bernardino County).
Firearms: Felony PC 401(a) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.
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PC 187(a) Murder
PC 664/187(a) Attempted Murder
PC 182(a)(1)/187(a): Conspiracy to Commit Murder
PC 653f(b): Solicitation to Commit Murder
PC 664/401(a) Attempted Assisted Suicide