Redmond, WA asked in Criminal Law, Federal Crimes, Gov & Administrative Law and Internet Law for Arizona

Q: Can I be charged at all if someone commits suicide after watching a YouTube video that I posted a comment on?

A few years ago I left a comment in the comment section of a YouTube video. This video wasn't mine, but essentially dismissed the legitimacy of depression and similar mental illnesses. I said some pretty unenlightened things about depressed people in my comment (e.g. that they're "good-for-nothing"), but didn't direct it at any individuals in particular. Another user then responded to my comment, stating that their sister had killed themselves after watching the video, and accusing me of playing a role in her death. However, I did not know said individual, nor did I openly encourage suicide in my comment. This all happened a few years ago. Would there be anything to charge me with, and did I break the law? Again, I left a COMMENT on the video this victim apparently watched before allegedly killing themselves. I also don't know which state this alleged victim lived in.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mike Branum
Mike Branum
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Saint George, UT
  • Licensed in Arizona

A: A) The statute of limitations (law setting a deadline by which charges must be filed or a claim made) has likely run on this event. B) Opinion is almost always protected speech unless it is inflammatory, contains untruths, or is damaging to a person's professional reputation. C) It is impossible to advise whether you broke the law because the law from literally any state could be applied and I have never met an attorney who was well-versed in all aspects of criminal law for all 50 states. D) In order for you to be charged, either a "victim" would have to initiate an investigation or an agency, of their own accord, would have to take an interest in pursuing charges against you AND convince a prosecutor that doing so would be a good use of their limited resources.

I do not believe you should lose any sleep over fear of being prosecuted for your stale online comments. It IS a good thing that you realize your online comments could expose you to criminal and civil action. More people should consider the possibility before they post.

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