Ban on “Advis[ing or] Encourag[ing] … Another” to Commit Suicide Violates First Amendment

So holds today’s State v. Final Exit Network, Inc. (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 30, 2013). The court concluded that the statute “criminalizes any and all expressions of support, guidance, planning, or education to people who want to end their own lives, whether from a public platform, such as a book, or in the private setting of a hospital room or family home,” and was therefore unconstitutionally overbroad. The court disagreed on this issue with State v. Melchert-Dinkel (Minn. Ct. App. 2012), which is now being reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court; presumably the Minnesota Supreme Court will consider the reasoning of the court of appeals’ opinion in this case (Final Exit Network) in reaching its ultimate decision.

The court did not decide whether a statute focused on speech to a particular person, advising or encouraging that person to commit suicide, might be outlawed, by analogy to the “solicitation of crime” exception (see United States v. Williams (2008)). “The state urges us,” the court noted, “to construe the statute to prohibit only speech ‘that intentionally advises a specific person, with the specific intent to aid the person in taking the other person’s own life,’ but acknowledges that the plain language of the statute does not so read.”

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