I live in California and today I was at a store where they overcharged me for a product (the product was literally marked a different price than what they keyed in). I didn't catch it until it had charged my card, and then afterwards they refused to correct the charge saying all sales are final. I then threatened to commit suicide if they didn't correct the charge and they called the police. I ran away but now I'm wondering, am I in any legal peril?

My understanding is that suicide is not illegal in California and therefore threatening it is of no consequence. It also is not a criminal threat according to my understanding as a criminal threat is only applicable towards another person or people.

In addition, this is money they legally owe me and are refusing to pay, not some attempt at extortion. Though I will admit this was a blatant attempt to use emotion to manipulate the situation, doing so is also not illegal to my understanding.

Thanks for any insight! Note: I am not actually suicidal. Please do not worry for my safety.

  • If you are a threat to yourself or others, that is exactly the sort of thing the police are called for. I've no idea if it's specifically a crime in this case (it might be extortion), but it's hardly surprising and wholly appropriate that they called the police on you. Who else were they supposed to call to deal with a life or death situation? Suicide Busters? – zibadawa timmy Mar 17 at 9:01
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    To be clear: You threatened to commit suicide because a store had a wrong price label? – user253751 Mar 17 at 10:10
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    @user253751 because they wouldn't refund me for fraudulently keying in the wrong price. Such histrionics have worked for me in the past. so why not. emotional manipulation is not illegal. – thelaststraw Mar 17 at 18:37
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    "emotional manipulation is not illegal." Maybe not, but it's pathetic. How old are you? – BlueDogRanch Mar 18 at 22:42
  • @BlueDogRanch your answer is demeaning and offensive, and completely unhelpful. Is this what users of Law Stack Exchange should expect from you? Reporting this comment as abusive and violating the Be Nice policy. – thelaststraw Mar 22 at 7:21

Other aspects aside, are you in legal peril for threatening to commit suicide? Not in the direct sense.

It's not illegal to attempt to emotionally manipulate someone. However, it would be a fairly common reaction to call the police when someone is acting as though they are a harm to themselves or others. I have no doubt that had you remained until the police arrived, that they would have considered taking you into custody for your own protection. This is where trouble can start coming your way. Arrests, whether they result in charges or not, can show on background checks, and can impact your life in other ways. For example, when applying for visas to other countries, it is common to be asked about prior arrests, and when you explain that it was all because of a threat of suicide, I believe many more questions will arise.

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  • interesting, thank you for bringing up these extra-legal ways in which arrest situations can affect me even if no charges are pressed. It does seem to violate my rights of due process if i can be arrested for something, never convicted yet still be penalized by employment possibilities. How is this legal for employers to be able to see this information? This is very harmful. A citizen not convicted of a crime should not have any penalty for having been wrongfully arrested. I understand that answering me here is out of scope but I felt I needed to say that. I should ask this in its own Q. – thelaststraw Mar 22 at 7:40

In Germany, had the store not called the police (or paramedics), they would have been charged for not doing so under Section 323c. Other jurisdictions will no doubt have similar laws.

On arrival, being informed that you ran away - but thankfully paid with a credit card - the police will try to find you. They are not allowed to make a determination that you are just being foolish, but must assume you are a danger to yourself.

At some point in the extensive bureaucratic matter, they will probably come to the conclusion that you have acted in a negligent manner. Once that has been done, you will be made liable for all entailed costs to the taxpayer.

So your fear of being charged for threatening to commit suicide is the least of your problems.

Your claim against the store is probably justified (the listed price is in most jurisdictions binding). Your reaction to that is not.

Section 323c
Failure to render assistance; obstruction of persons rendering assistance

(1) Whoever does not render assistance in the case of an accident or a common danger or emergency although it is necessary and can reasonably be expected under the circumstances, in particular if it is possible without substantial danger to that person and without breaching other important duties, incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine.

(2) Whoever obstructs a person who is rendering or wishes to render assistance to another person in such a situation incurs the same penalty.


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  • Negligence of the OP? What duty of care for the store does he have? To not make them have to call the police? lol – Greendrake Mar 18 at 10:42
  • @Greendrake Neither the store nor the police can determine if is a true threat or a hoax. They must react. Due to the credit card the OP is known. If later it determined that it is a hoax, then then OP will be held responsible for the unneeded calling of the police and any further actions. – Mark Johnson Mar 18 at 10:52
  • You always have the care of duty not to cost the police time and money by faking something that forced them to come out. – gnasher729 Mar 18 at 13:04
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    Why are you citing German law when the OP is asking about California? – Ron Beyer Mar 18 at 15:19
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    @RonBeyer The OP is asking for any insight, so when building up the answer that reflects the whole picture - that aspect (which was not covered by the other answer) was added using a law I am familiar with and easily understable. – Mark Johnson Mar 18 at 15:39

When you threaten to commit suicide in front of me, of course I will call the police, hoping that they will arrive in time to save your life. Any decent person would do that. The police aren't called to throw you in jail, but to save your life.

As far as your money is concerned, you showed clearly that you are mentally disturbed, so your claim that you were overcharged cannot be trusted. You shot yourself in the foot.

Personally, if you think threatening suicide is something that will get you any positive results, think twice. People have to take such threats seriously, and it’s not going to be pleasant for you. Since you are doing this intentionally, I most definitely don’t fear for negative consequences, I see them as fully deserved.

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  • my "claim that i'm overcharged" is because the clerk keyed in a price different than what was on the label. a clear case of fraudulent overcharging and theft on the part of the store. And such theft fully warrants extreme degrees of emotional manipulation such as threatening suicide. which is not illegal. – thelaststraw Mar 17 at 18:39
  • and no, being willing to emotionally manipulate people is NOT a case of mental disturbance. its pretty much what every human does to one degree or another. Spend time with any child for instance, if you need proof. – thelaststraw Mar 17 at 18:41
  • Another example. A previous employer threatened to cut my pay, so I threatened suicide. They were not a "decent person" in any regard, and fortunately instead of calling the police they dropped the issue and my pay remained the same. win. – thelaststraw Mar 17 at 18:49
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    @thelaststraw My prediction for the next time. You shout "I will commit suicide". Two people jump on you and hold you to the ground, the third calls the police. "There is a guy here who threatened to kill himself. We don't know if he has a bomb, but we're not risk checking". That will be fun. – gnasher729 Mar 17 at 19:26
  • the two people who jump on me in such a hypothetical will be sued for their actions, beyond the fact that it is criminal in the first place to assault and batter me in such a way. Also I didn't shout, I find that many things are much creepier when spoken softly. – thelaststraw Mar 17 at 19:36

It is not a crime, but may still be illegal.

A "threat" to commit suicide does not fall under the definition of "criminal threat" under California law. The person being "threatened" has no reasons to fear for their own safety and well-being other than possibly facing liability for failing to prevent suicide and/or feeling distressed.

Still, a person "threatening" to commit suicide is likely committing IIED (tort of outrage). However, insanity defense may be available to them.

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  • “Insanity defence” sticks with you. (There was a case in the U.K. where someone got out off a serious assault charge estimated to give six years by pleading insanity, practiced using “The Shining” as a model, and ended up in an institution for 12 years). – gnasher729 Mar 18 at 10:09
  • I'm not so sure about this answer. Is it illegal to intentionally cause emotional distress? Freedom of speech goes far, but this threat.is a rather unusual one. – MSalters Mar 18 at 20:23
  • @MSalters Nice one! I have re-written the answer with that in mind. – Greendrake Mar 18 at 20:44

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