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  #1  
Old 04-23-2012, 04:49 PM
hotflungwok hotflungwok is offline
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Saying that you're going to kill yourself is a crime?

I've heard that 'threatening' suicide is against the law. It kinda made me wonder how that works.

I guess someone has report, do they just call the police and say 'Bob said he was gonna kill himself'? Is this a priority for the police, will they rush right out to stop Bob? Once they get him they throw him in jail for threatening suicide. This helps how? What if Bob says 'No I didnt, dat bitch crazy'? How do the police establish whether he really did it or not? What happens if the person hasn't said anything about suicide, but is very depressed, and someone calls the police and tells them that they might kill themselves?

I've also heard that it's mandatory to report threatening suicide to the police, cuz if you dont and they actually do kill themselves, you can be sued. Is this everybody, or just companies, or what? Are mental health professionals (psychs, therapists, etc) bound by this? If a person tells their therapist that they think about suicide, does she have to send them to jail (or the giggling academy) immediately?

And what actually happens, legally, when someone does commit suicide? Do the police stop investigating once they determine it's a suicide? Who has to clean up the scene? Does a suicide's will get honored? What if they don't have a will, like a college student, what happens to their stuff? What happens to bills they're supposed to pay? Credit card debt?

I think I've been watching too much Law & Order lately.
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  #2  
Old 04-23-2012, 05:08 PM
jtgain jtgain is online now
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Originally Posted by hotflungwok View Post
I've heard that 'threatening' suicide is against the law. It kinda made me wonder how that works.

I guess someone has report, do they just call the police and say 'Bob said he was gonna kill himself'? Is this a priority for the police, will they rush right out to stop Bob? Once they get him they throw him in jail for threatening suicide. This helps how? What if Bob says 'No I didnt, dat bitch crazy'? How do the police establish whether he really did it or not? What happens if the person hasn't said anything about suicide, but is very depressed, and someone calls the police and tells them that they might kill themselves?

I've also heard that it's mandatory to report threatening suicide to the police, cuz if you dont and they actually do kill themselves, you can be sued. Is this everybody, or just companies, or what? Are mental health professionals (psychs, therapists, etc) bound by this? If a person tells their therapist that they think about suicide, does she have to send them to jail (or the giggling academy) immediately?

And what actually happens, legally, when someone does commit suicide? Do the police stop investigating once they determine it's a suicide? Who has to clean up the scene? Does a suicide's will get honored? What if they don't have a will, like a college student, what happens to their stuff? What happens to bills they're supposed to pay? Credit card debt?

I think I've been watching too much Law & Order lately.

Let's try to take these in order:

1. It may be technically against the law (differs by jurisdiction) but everyone treats it as a mental health issue. Most states have a provision (called the Baker Act in FL, the "321" Act in PA, etc.) that allows anyone to sign an affidavit saying that they believe you are a danger to yourself and you get taken in for evaluation for a short period of time. If you do this to someone on a lark, you will be in serious trouble.

2. Unless you are in a position where you owe a particular duty to a person (doctor, teacher, parent) then you can sit by with popcorn and watch someone commit suicide. You have no duty to help anyone generally.

3. Sure, once it is determined that it is a suicide, the cops' job is done. They take the body away, you get to clean up the scene.

4. Sure a person who commits suicide's will in honored, provided he was in his right mind when he wrote it.

5. If he doesn't have a will, his assets are distributed according to his state intestate succession law. If he doesn't have enough assets to pay his bills, then the estate is insolvent, and his creditors are out of luck.
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  #3  
Old 04-23-2012, 05:18 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Also note that most life insurance policies will not pay out for a suicide.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:34 PM
Mdcastle Mdcastle is offline
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Vermont and Minnesota have "good samaritan" laws so in those states you might get in (minor) trouble for sitting by with popcorn. Also didn't Cecil do a column where he said most life insurance will pay on a suicide if it's been a certain amount of time?

Also it's interesting in Minnesota it's illegal to encourage someone to commit suicide. A male nurse was prosecuted for egging two people into online, one in Canada and on in the UK.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:55 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Also note that most life insurance policies will not pay out for a suicide.
Most have some restrictions like they won't pay for suicide during the first two or three years, but I don't think most have these restrictions much longer.

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Originally Posted by Mdcastleman View Post
Vermont and Minnesota have "good samaritan" laws so in those states you might get in (minor) trouble for sitting by with popcorn.
"Good Samaritan" laws are laws that protect those who step in to help and might be prosecuted. They aren't laws that say you must be a good Samaritan. Though there might be such laws as well.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:08 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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"Good Samaritan" laws are laws that protect those who step in to help and might be prosecuted. They aren't laws that say you must be a good Samaritan. Though there might be such laws as well.
While I believe that is generally true of jurisdictions that have a "good Samaritan law," the Vermont statute is different. The relevant statute has 3 subsections: first, establishing a duty to assist those in grave danger if it can be done without unreasonable endangerment of oneself; second, indemnifying most assisters against civil action; and third, establishing a very modest fine ($100) for those who fail to assist. The statute as a whole is often called (unofficially, as far as I can tell) Vermont's "good Samaritan law." I agree that calling the first and third subsections by that name would seem to pervert the story of the biblical good Samaritan, whose rendering of assistance had nothing to do with his desire to obey a law or avoid a $100 fine.
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  #7  
Old 04-24-2012, 01:20 AM
obbn obbn is offline
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As far as cleaning up the mess from a suicide, murder, accident, etc. it is left up to the property owner. There are however companies that specialize in crime scene clean up. They have to be hazmat certified and it isn't cheap to have it done. I remember seeing a reality type show on TV about some people who went into business for themselves cleaning crime scenes. Great money to be made if you don't mind cleaning up brain splatter and coming into people's homes while they're still grieving over the loss of someone.
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  #8  
Old 04-24-2012, 02:30 AM
Foggy Foggy is offline
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
1. It may be technically against the law (differs by jurisdiction) but everyone treats it as a mental health issue. Most states have a provision (called the Baker Act in FL, the "321" Act in PA, etc.) that allows anyone to sign an affidavit saying that they believe you are a danger to yourself and you get taken in for evaluation for a short period of time. If you do this to someone on a lark, you will be in serious trouble.
In Californian it's 5150 a welfare code for a 72 hour psych hold. If the doctor doesn't think you are ready to be release they can hold you an additional 14 days on a 5250. This was explained to me by the ER nurse when I was admitted to St Francis Psych ward at the beginning of this month. Fun times.
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  #9  
Old 04-24-2012, 02:33 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by hotflungwok View Post
I've heard that 'threatening' suicide is against the law.
I suppose it could be, depending on the jurisdiction, though I'm not aware of any laws specifically forbidding someone from threatening suicide. However, it may certainly be illegal by implication: in some jurisdictions suicide, or attempted suicide, is a crime, and in many jurisdictions threatening to commit a crime is a crime. Therefore threatening to commit suicide may be a crime.
Quote:
I guess someone has report, do they just call the police and say 'Bob said he was gonna kill himself'? Is this a priority for the police, will they rush right out to stop Bob? Once they get him they throw him in jail for threatening suicide. This helps how? What if Bob says 'No I didnt, dat bitch crazy'? How do the police establish whether he really did it or not?
If the police and prosecutor believe it's in the public interest to treat the matter as a criminal case (which they almost certainly will not, as others have already pointed out), then they will presumably treat the matter as they would any other criminal investigation, gathering whatever evidence is available, including eyewitness testimony. If the totality of evidence is one person's word against another, then it's unlikely the matter will end up in court. If, on the other hand, there are several reliable eyewitnesses, or maybe an audio recording or a written threat in the suspect's handwriting, they might decide to charge and try the suspect. Again, I doubt this would ever happen with a genuinely despondent suspect; I suppose it might be conceivable if someone was going around making empty but believable threats in order to intimidate people or coerce them into doing things.
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I've also heard that it's mandatory to report threatening suicide to the police, cuz if you dont and they actually do kill themselves, you can be sued.
Damned if you do and damned if you don't—what if you hear, or think you hear, someone threatening suicide, you report this to the police, and the action the police take ends up severely inconveniencing the person, or worse yet, getting him thrown in prison or a mental health institution for what turns out to be a misunderstanding on your part? They might well decide to sue you then for ruining their life.
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  #10  
Old 04-24-2012, 07:53 AM
Ann Hedonia Ann Hedonia is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Also note that most life insurance policies will not pay out for a suicide.
This is a common myth, but usually wrong these days, assuming one has owned the policy for more than 2 years.

Question: What About Suicide...Can Life Insurance Still be Collected?
Answer: Each life insurance policy is different, but most contain a suicide provision. The suicide provision states that if the person covered by the life insurance policy dies as the result of suicide within two years from the policy issue date then any beneficiaries would not be able to collect the death benefit. Otherwise, after the two year suicide provision period, the policy should pay the death benefit to the beneficiaries. But, again, check the policy's exclusions section, since the suicide provision can be different for each policy.
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  #11  
Old 04-24-2012, 07:58 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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I have been on a lot of attempted/threatened suicide calls. No one has ever been arrested. Off to the loony bin with them. Actually they go to the hospital first for medical clearance and then they are transported to a separate mental heath facility.
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  #12  
Old 04-24-2012, 08:11 AM
kayaker kayaker is offline
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Coincidentally I was stuck in traffic on a bridge yesterday where someone was threatening to jump. I was the 4th car back from the police cars. While I sat answering text messages, the guy in the car in front of me got out of his vehicle. He shouted, "hey, shit or get off the pot" to the would be jumper, which get a smattering of horn honk recognitions.

I don't know the outcome, as a chance to do a u-turn arose and I scampered.
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:33 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
Coincidentally I was stuck in traffic on a bridge yesterday where someone was threatening to jump. I was the 4th car back from the police cars. While I sat answering text messages, the guy in the car in front of me got out of his vehicle. He shouted, "hey, shit or get off the pot" to the would be jumper, which get a smattering of horn honk recognitions.

I don't know the outcome, as a chance to do a u-turn arose and I scampered.
If that's the same incident I heard about, the woman did jump. She broke both legs but survived.
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  #14  
Old 04-24-2012, 11:53 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I've been involved in criminal justice in Ohio for almost 20 years and have never heard of anyone being charged with the "crime" of threatening suicide. Disturbing the peace is the closest offense I can think of, and that's more of a catchall provision anyway.
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  #15  
Old 04-24-2012, 03:14 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
I've been involved in criminal justice in Ohio for almost 20 years and have never heard of anyone being charged with the "crime" of threatening suicide. Disturbing the peace is the closest offense I can think of, and that's more of a catchall provision anyway.


I did some research on this years ago, and Suicide is not a crime in Ohio, so attempted suicide can not be.

I can't quote where I read it in my mind, but I think it was from the old Nisi Prius case law volumes at the law library.

You know, the volumes that also cite Common Pleas rulings.
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  #16  
Old 04-24-2012, 03:32 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by hotflungwok View Post

I've also heard that it's mandatory to report threatening suicide to the police, cuz if you dont and they actually do kill themselves, you can be sued. Is this everybody, or just companies, or what?

As per my other post, at least in Ohio, Suicide is NOT a crime, therefore the attempt or threat of attempt is not a crime.

Let's assume it was, in Ohio we have a law in which a failure to report a Felony is a Misdemeanor of the 4th degree.

There is no law for mandatory Misdemeanor reporting by the general public.

I believe from past research Ohio Common law has ingrained a "Duty to rescue"/"Duty to aid" doctrine. Without researching more, one may be under an affirmitive duty to prevent such. What would be remedial by the Estate for failure to aid is another matter.

I suppose this is similar in nature to crimes by Omission. Failure to aid/act when a person has been shot, may result in the person being charged?

Last edited by lawbuff; 04-24-2012 at 03:34 PM..
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  #17  
Old 04-24-2012, 03:56 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
I did some research on this years ago, and Suicide is not a crime in Ohio, so attempted suicide can not be.
I don't think that logically follows. It is possible for legislation to separately criminalize an action and an attempted action. This is indeed the case in England and Wales, where murder and attempted murder are statutorily distinct crimes. It's not inconceivable that, recognizing the absurdity of prosecuting a successful suicide, legislators somewhere (maybe even in Ohio) have seen fit to criminalize attempted suicide but not suicide.
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Old 04-24-2012, 04:19 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
I don't think that logically follows. It is possible for legislation to separately criminalize an action and an attempted action. This is indeed the case in England and Wales, where murder and attempted murder are statutorily distinct crimes. It's not inconceivable that, recognizing the absurdity of prosecuting a successful suicide, legislators somewhere (maybe even in Ohio) have seen fit to criminalize attempted suicide but not suicide.

In Ohio, an Attempt to commit a crime is 1 less degree of a charge.

Say an act is a felony of the 2nd degree, an attempt to commit it is a felony of the 3rd degree.

For example, it is NOT an offense to attempt to commit a Minor Misdemanor, other offenses yes.

We already have a mental health hold law as the others have discussed.

You can not criminalize the attempt of a crime when the crime was not "completed".

I have never read in any state's law where the attempt to commit an act was a crime, but if the crime was completed, it was not?
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  #19  
Old 04-24-2012, 04:50 PM
jtgain jtgain is online now
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I think that whether suicide is a crime or not depends on the specific wording of the state murder statute. Some states define murder as "blah blah blah of another human being" whereas others simply say "of a human being."

Since you (the general yourself) are a human being, attempted suicide would be attempted murder, no?

Examples:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Florida murder 1 statute
1)(a) The unlawful killing of a human being:
1. When perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being;
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohio murder 1 statute
(A) No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.
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  #20  
Old 04-24-2012, 05:16 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I think that whether suicide is a crime or not depends on the specific wording of the state murder statute. Some states define murder as "blah blah blah of another human being" whereas others simply say "of a human being."

Since you (the general yourself) are a human being, attempted suicide would be attempted murder, no?

Examples:
One thing that people around here get hung up on is the wording of laws. The specific wording is very important. But so are the precedents set down by that states courts. I would be very surprised if the statute you quoted was ever used in the case of an attempted suicide.
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  #21  
Old 04-24-2012, 06:13 PM
Mdcastle Mdcastle is offline
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Minnesota's "Good Samaritan Law" does obligate one to act. Violation is a petty misdemenor. I'm not aware of anyone who has actually been prosecuted, but it's possible in theory.

If one makes an attempt and survive but with injuries, some health insurance policies have an exclusion for self-inflicted injuries (although it's rare). A person I know cut herself; her friends walked in on her doing it and forced her to go the ER to get stitches and she wound up with a bill over $1000.00

Last edited by Mdcastle; 04-24-2012 at 06:17 PM..
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  #22  
Old 04-24-2012, 06:40 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
...

You can not criminalize the attempt of a crime when the crime was not "completed".

I have never read in any state's law where the attempt to commit an act was a crime, but if the crime was completed, it was not?
This doesn't sound right to me. Surely you can try, and fail, to kill someone and be charged with attempted murder, can't you? Also, if the crime is "completed", why would they charge you for the attempt, and not the actual act. Also, I've never heard of a killer being charged with both murder and attempted murder after killing someone, sit it would seem the charges would more or less mutually exclude each other.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:31 PM
MonkeyMensch MonkeyMensch is offline
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Originally Posted by Foggy View Post
In Californian it's 5150 a welfare code for a 72 hour psych hold. If the doctor doesn't think you are ready to be release they can hold you an additional 14 days on a 5250. This was explained to me by the ER nurse when I was admitted to St Francis Psych ward at the beginning of this month. Fun times.
You and me both, Foggy. I was 5150'd about a month ago and was shocked at how badly the whole situation was handled. I was talking to a counselor on my company provided help-line while I was on medical leave for depression. It was around 2:30 am and couldn't sleep and I had been drinking, but not to any black-out levels. We started out just talking about circumstances and medical history. The counselor eventually got around to what I think were a scripted series of questions.

Counsleor: Are you thinking about harming yourself or others or damaging property?
MonkeyMensch: No.
C: Have you been having suicidal thoughts?
MM: Yes, but none of them are actively suicidal. I always tend to characterize my thoughts along the lines the lines of George Bailey, from It's A Wonderful Life: I wish I had never been born.
C: If you were to commit suicide how would you do it? (This was the loaded question, no pun intended.)
MM: I'd get a shotgun with no. 6 shot and put it in my mouth. You see, no. 6 shot is large enough to lacerate the brain tissue and yet not large enough to create an exit wound.

(This is just stuff I know from knowing anatomy, physiology and shooting shotguns. The specifics apparently raised every red flag in this moron's book. His next questions made sense, however.)

C: Do you own any firearms?
MM: No, none at all.
C: Do you have access to firearms or ammunition?
MM: No. I've never owned a gun of my own and don't have any ammo.
C: Do you have thoughts of harming yourself, or others or property tonight?
MM: No. Not at all. Like I said my thoughts are wishing I had never existed, not killing myself now.

Here's where he covered the HelpLine's ass...
C: Hang on a moment...
MM: Are you calling a mental health professional?
C: Uh, yeah.

Now the only place in my apartment with good cell reception is right by the slider overlooking the parking lot.

At this point C calls the Sheriff's Department and tells them that someone at my address is thinking about suicide by firearm. We talk a bit more and I get to see five (count 'em, five) sheriff's patrol cars (code 2, no sirens) pull up next to and eventually into my parking lot. I'm flabbergasted. Six deputies all pile out and while I'm still trying to talk to the counselor on the phone I start trying to answer the questions the deputies are throwing up at me. In the middle of the deputies is this 19 year old with a shotgun and bandolier ready to fire at me, in case something "bad" happens.

Senior Sheriff's deputy: Are you MonkeyMensch?
MM: Yeah?
SSD: How do you get into this building?
MM: You don't. It's a secure building. What do you want?
SSD: We got a call about a potential suicide and that's why were here.

(By this time I had lost the call to the counselor, so my attention was fully devoted to the cops.)

MM: OK. But I'm not actively suicidal, as I told the counselor. I also have no firearms or ammo up here, is that clear?
SSD: Yeah, that's fine we'd just like you to come down here to talk to us.

You can probably guess what happens from there. It involves protestations of no active intent, handcuffs, asshole deputies (there are some) and dorks at the ER. N.B. that there is an ER three blocks from my house but they drive me half an hour's drive away to some OTHER ER that has the contract with with the county.

I learned a few things, though. Don't talk to deputies if it can be avoided. NEVER open the door to a deputy who does not have a warrant on his or her person. Don't use the EAP network. They have incompetent staff who will cover their own asses at your expense. Thanks.

Last edited by MonkeyMensch; 04-24-2012 at 07:33 PM..
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  #24  
Old 04-24-2012, 07:46 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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The Straight Dope. According to Cecil, attempted suicide was a crime as of 1963 in 6 states.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:47 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is online now
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I had a friend who told a customer service rep for his satellite TV company he might as well kill himself because he wasn't getting any reception (for an NHL playoff game) - a short while later the local police (who they had called) showed up to check on him.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:52 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
This doesn't sound right to me. Surely you can try, and fail, to kill someone and be charged with attempted murder, can't you? Also, if the crime is "completed", why would they charge you for the attempt, and not the actual act. Also, I've never heard of a killer being charged with both murder and attempted murder after killing someone, sit it would seem the charges would more or less mutually exclude each other.

Right, but I was talking about Suicide specifically.

Tripolar's link states that there were or are 6 states which criminalize attempted suicide, never heard of that myself.

I suppose rethinking it, if you attempt to kill yourself and you fail, it is tantamonut to a person needing a mental health evaluation, and as we already have discussed about mental health holds, it would give the police the right to hold them and give them help.

Makes sense in that regard.

Kind of like holding a drunk under a so called protective custody with no charges until they sleep it off.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:55 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
I had a friend who told a customer service rep for his satellite TV company he might as well kill himself because he wasn't getting any reception (for an NHL playoff game) - a short while later the local police (who they had called) showed up to check on him.

That may fall under the so called "Community Caretaking" function of a ruling decades ago. However, several years ago, the SC ruled the police could enter a home without a warrant if anyone inside was in imminent peril.
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:32 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
In Ohio, an Attempt to commit a crime is 1 less degree of a charge.
It's similar in other jurisdictions. But this doesn't preclude legislators from passing separate legislation criminalizing "attempt to X" which, in the case of X, supersedes the general rule covering attempts.
Quote:
I have never read in any state's law where the attempt to commit an act was a crime, but if the crime was completed, it was not?
Neither have I, though that's not to say such a law couldn't exist. There are certainly examples from non-criminal law where attempted suicide incurs a penalty but suicide does not. One example is Roman Catholic canon law, which stipulates that certain rites and sacraments are denied to attempted suicides; suicide is not similarly penalized (and in fact is not mentioned at all—earlier revisions of the code did contain penalties for suicide, such as denial of funeral masses and burial in church cemetaries, but they have since been repealed.)
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Old 04-25-2012, 06:29 AM
Imago Imago is offline
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There was a time, probably long before 1963, when the bodies of successful suicides were charged with murder and hanged on a regular basis.

Last edited by Imago; 04-25-2012 at 06:30 AM..
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:44 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by Imago View Post
There was a time, probably long before 1963, when the bodies of successful suicides were charged with murder and hanged on a regular basis.
It was a very effective punishment. The recidivism rate was zero.
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  #31  
Old 04-26-2012, 07:44 AM
jtgain jtgain is online now
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
One thing that people around here get hung up on is the wording of laws. The specific wording is very important. But so are the precedents set down by that states courts. I would be very surprised if the statute you quoted was ever used in the case of an attempted suicide.
I would doubt it as well. That's why I said, even if it was a crime, nobody treats it that way, so it is just a semantic point.
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