According to dumblaws.com, in New York (City? State? or both?):

The penalty for jumping off a building is death.

It is the second most-voted weird law in NY in ranker.com also:

If Jumping Off a Building Doesn't Kill You... the City of NYC Will
The penalty for jumping off a building is death.

I couldn't find anything in the website below but maybe I didn't search properly:

Is this a made-up law or could it be a historical law?

  • 13
    Suicide attempt used to be punishable under English law: bbc.com/news/magazine-14374296 I don't think it was ever by death, but I didn't look too deep back in history. Jan 17, 2018 at 0:04
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    If this page is to be believed, the same was true in the US. And still illegal in Singapore apparently. Actually, there's a whole Wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_legislation Jan 17, 2018 at 0:10
  • 28
    Try looking at Physics laws: jumping won't kill you, but reaching the ground of the city at high velocity is sure death.
    – Cœur
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:23
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    Well, if I intentionally jump onto someone below, trying to kill them, and succeed.... "jumping off a building" can cover a very, very broad range of activities, not just an attempt to kill oneself from many stories up. Jan 18, 2018 at 23:08
  • 4
    I think you're misinterpreting "The penalty for jumping off a building is death." Read "penalty for" as "consequence of". ;-)
    – JonBrave
    Jan 20, 2018 at 12:17

4 Answers 4


No, New York does not have the death penalty.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center:

In 1995 newly-elected Governor George Pataki fulfilled a campaign promise and signed legislation reinstating the death penalty in New York, designating lethal injection as the new method of execution. In 2004, that statute was declared unconstitutional by the New York Court of Appeals, and in 2007 the last remaining death sentence was reduced to life, leaving New York with a vacant death row and no viable death penalty laws. In 2008 Governor David Paterson issued an executive order requiring the removal of all execution equipment from state facilities.

  • 11
    Thanks. Could it be a historical law then? or is there any legit law that might have prompted this made-up law?
    – ermanen
    Jan 16, 2018 at 20:25
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    In fact the quote says it is the city of NY and not the state. I think the city NEVER had a death penalty.
    – GEdgar
    Jan 16, 2018 at 22:47
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    @GEdgar can the city of NY issue any criminal laws or assign the death penalty for anything? Isn't that the prerogative of the state?
    – Peteris
    Jan 17, 2018 at 8:45
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    @Peteris NYC is surprisingly independent from the rest of the state -- for example, the firearms laws are pretty different (more restrictive) than in the rest of the state. I don't know how much this carries over, though.
    – anon
    Jan 17, 2018 at 20:58
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    @Steve-O, Romans had nothing against suicide - opening one's veins or falling on one's sword could even be the honourable thing to do. Suicide was forbidden to soldiers because it was tantamount to desertion (which could be punished by death, but it depended on circumstances), to slaves because they didn't own their life, and to people already sentenced to death (they would deprive the State of their estate). Later, to tackle the problem raised by fectin, sentenced suicides were considered carried-out sentences, and heirless - thus, problem solved.
    – LSerni
    Jan 20, 2018 at 23:33

All laws related to attempted suicide in the State of New York were repealed before 1964. If the law had existed before then, it was never used.

Any laws against suicide that may have existed were repealed by the State of New York prior to 1964.

It should be emphasized that suicide is not against the law in most parts of the United States of America. According to written reports from the Attorney General of each of the states (in 1964), there are only nine states [...] in which suicide is a crime.


In recent times, two states (Nevada, New York) repealed such laws, stating in effect that suicide is a grave social wrong, but there is no way to punish it.

In addition to the fact that all laws regarding suicide were removed, and the death penalty hasn't existed in NY since 2007 (see also Oddthinking's answer), there has never been an instance of someone being executed for attempted suicide, reckless endangerment, or anything that could be construed as "jumping off a building" in the State of New York.

Wikipedia has a list of every person executed for crimes in the State of New York. Since 1800, the only persons on the list who were executed for something other than murder or conspiracy to murder are

All other executions on this list were for murder or conspiracy to murder.

  • 4
    @Acccumulation which would probably be a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Death would be an extreme penalty indeed for a misdemeanor...
    – jwenting
    Jan 17, 2018 at 12:16
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    @Acccumulation Well there were no executions for reckless endangerment either. It looks like there were three ways to get killed by the State of NY: kill someone, be a famous spy, or do something bad during a war on US soil.
    – kingledion
    Jan 17, 2018 at 16:37
  • This alone isn't evidence of no law. Do we know of any cases where people jumped and didn't die? Maybe it never happened, which could mean the law exists and never needed to be enforced.
    – Octopus
    Jan 17, 2018 at 17:13
  • @Octopus bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11156342
    – Danica
    Jan 18, 2018 at 3:29
  • @Dougal, it would make sense to use that case and argue that "since somebody did this and wasnt charged the law must not exist" but as it stands this answer is only arguing that "nobody was charged therefore the law doesnt exist". Its an incomplete argument.
    – Octopus
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:51

As an addendum to Oddthinking's answer...

Under the current US Constitutional regime (since 2008), the Death Penalty can only be applied by a state for crimes against people that are aggravated murder, or for a "crime against the state" (and the latter might be unconstitutional in some cases too. KvL didn't rule on that).

There are many more limitations, but these should be more than sufficient to invalidate any general law instituting capital punishment for suicide attempts. So not only is there no such law, but there cannot be any such (enforceable) law in the USA.

  • Interesting point, though that ruling seems extremely tenuous, was decided 5-4, and was opposed by many from both political parties (including both Obama and McCain who were running for President at the time.) That said, while I wouldn't be shocked to see this particular ruling overturned in the future, I would indeed be very surprised if a future court ruled that the death penalty for attempted suicide (or any other similar crime for which jumping off of a building would qualify) did not violate the 8th Amendment.
    – reirab
    Jan 17, 2018 at 6:50
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    Just wanted to point out that you can in fact murder someone by jumping off a building and landing on them. Perhaps not the best way but...
    – pipe
    Jan 17, 2018 at 9:13
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    @9ilsdx9rvj0lo - Not really. Even in a crowded street there will usually be a foot or more between people - you will be very lucky to hit six people, and you will be unlikely to kill them all. Jan 17, 2018 at 12:55
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    @pipe - In 1965 an Italian woman was dumped by her boyfriend when he was in her (upper story) apartment. He then left. After a minute or two, she decided she couldn't live without him. She jumped through her apartment window. However, he was just leaving the apartment building and she landed on him. He died. She survived. Jan 17, 2018 at 20:00
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    @Sklivvz - The question in the title is not "Was a law ever passed?", it is "Is there a Death Penalty...?" I'm answering that directly (just like the currently top-voted answer is). There is not (regardless of what might technically be in the books). Also note that its arguable if any statute invalidated by a supreme court decision can be considered "a law". Many states in the US still have anti-sodomy statutes, but they are all unenforceable. Its arguable whether the are "laws" or not (depends on what you mean by that word), but there are indisputably no "penalties" for violating them.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 19, 2018 at 18:58

There is a very good chance that the "law" is spurious, but it's entirely possible that such a law once existed. See the Wiki article Criminalization of Attempted Suicide If it ever existed in New York, I'm pretty sure that New York City did not have the authority to execute people, so as stated the law is probably bogus. There may have been a Colonial-era law, though.

Through the 1960s attempted suicide was in many places a crime (although the law was hardly ever enforced). The analysis was that the person had attempted (with premeditation) to kill a person. This made it attempted murder. In the 1800's attempted suicide in Britain was punishable by hanging.

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