California Penal Code Section 401 Interpretation

In California, the statutory definition of the crime at issue is set out in Penal Code section 401. This felony statute, in effect since 1873, provides as follows: "Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide, is guilty of a felony." The language of section 401 closely resembles that used in other parts of the Penal Code to define or describe the principal criminal liability of persons who "aid and abet" the commission of a crime, and the courts have frequently used the terms aiding and abetting interchangeably with those employed by section 401 in discussing the elements of the crime defined by that statute. See, for example section 31, which provides in pertinent part as follows: "All persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether it be felony or misdemeanor, and whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission, or not being present, have advised and encouraged its commission, . . . are principals in any crime so committed."