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  #1  
Old 06-13-2002, 02:53 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Is it illegal to NOT report a crime you are aware of?

For the sake of this thread ignore any moral obligations and just focus on the legal issues (also ignore any special case situations such as attorney/client priviledge or talking to a spouse).

Assume I see some guy rob a gas station across the street and then he comes into the bar I am watching from, sits next to me and proceeds to brag about his recent robbery. Over the course of our conversation I manage to get his name and where he lives.

If I decide to NOT tell the police of this am I guilty of anything? Assume the police have incontrovertible proof that I do know (maybe a video tape from a hidden camera in the bar complete with audio). Can I be charged with a crime for failing to report what I knew to the authorities? This seems like abetting a crime but I'm not sure how the law views it.
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  #2  
Old 06-13-2002, 02:58 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Depending on the state you live in and the seriousness of the crime - yes.
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  #3  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:00 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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If you are Civil Service, it usually is, in most states.
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  #4  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:09 PM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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In CA, you do NOT have to go to the police. Only in certain circumstances must you report something.

Aiding and abetting requires an act, not an omission.
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  #5  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:10 PM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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In the video/audio example in the OP, you could be compelled to testify, but you could not be charged with a crime.
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  #6  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:15 PM
stuyguy stuyguy is offline
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Isn't this a classic case of "Witholding Evidence"?

Or is that some charge that Jack Webb or Dick Wolf invented for TV shows?
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  #7  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:19 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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In some jurisdictions failure to report a felony you know has been committed is a crime called misprision of felony.
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  #8  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:23 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by msmith537
Depending on the state you live in and the seriousness of the crime - yes.
I can see where 'seriousness' of a crime makes sense else I would have to report every person I ever drove with who broke the speed limit or call in jaywalkers and such.

Still, I would imagine the state would have an interest in compelling people to report serious crimes such as murder, rape and so on.

As an aside but slightly related are you legally obligated to remain at the scene of an accident you witnessed (but were not a part of) to tell the police your story or is that just a good citizen sort of thing to do?
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  #9  
Old 06-13-2002, 03:48 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Depends on the state. In many states - no. There are sometimes high profile cases which bring the issue to the front - a couple years ago, there was a case here concerning David Cash, a Berkeley student, not the baseball player. He and a friend took a trip to Las Vegas. The friend raped and murdered a seven year old girl, which Cash knew was happening, and neither did anything to stop it or report it to anybody. IIRC, he wandered out into the casino and calmly gambled while his buddy was assaulting the child in the bathroom. He was charged with nada because there was no way to construe him as an accomplice, and there was no law, at least in Nevada, requiring him to report a crime.



His behaviour afterward, in which he seemed totally unconcerned
, and said he "wasn't going to lose sleep over somebody else's problems" really fanned the flames.


Particularly egregious cases like that spark a round of controversy concerning whether there OUGHT to be such a law. Several sources out here claimed that New Jersey has such a law and could have charged Cash if it had happened there. Personally, I'm uneasy with laws of that sort .
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  #10  
Old 06-13-2002, 04:24 PM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Why are you uneasy?

I forgot the name of the woman (Kitty?) in New York City who was raped and murdered on the street, screaming for help, while dozens of people looked on and no one called the police. "Not my problem" was their response afterwards. IIRC, that was the impetus for a change in law in NY that requires reporting felonies.

I hope that all such people find themselves in the reverse situation some day, crying for help and being ignored.

You also have laws about not leaving the scene of an automobile accident, do those make you uneasy, too?

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 06-13-2002 at 04:26 PM..
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  #11  
Old 06-13-2002, 04:44 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Kitty Genovese. Another high profile case.



I'm uneasy about the law because I think it rife with potential for abuse which far outweighs the advantage to be gained in occasional case where you could get somebody who views a murder in progress as nothing to concern themselves with. I don't like a law requiring the average citizen to turn police informant. It falls into the broad category of attempting to legislate moral behaviour. It doesn't work, and it gets the state into a business it doesn't belong in.

The "scene of an accident" law is rather narrowly construed, and addresses only the duties and responsibilities of a motor vehicle operator - I don't have problems with adding extra requirement to a privilege like a motor vehicle license. In theory, at least, you don't HAVE to drive a car.
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  #12  
Old 06-13-2002, 04:47 PM
Ringo Ringo is offline
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Kitty Genovese, I believe.
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  #13  
Old 06-13-2002, 04:58 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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To further what yabob is talking about I too am vaguely uneasy about such a law. Using an instance of murder or rape in progress and not feeling the need to report it takes one extreme and makes a law to require reporting seem legitimate.

Consider other examples though:

I've known (and currently know) people who smoke pot. I've also known people who sold it. I personally have no problem with pot smokers I find it disturbing to think that I am a criminal for not turning in my friends.

How about this:
Assume defacing the American flag becomes illegal and a felony via a constitutional amendment. While it may now be the law of the land I would have a real problem turning in a flag burner to the police. Worse, imagine it is your son who is doing the flag burning. Are you to be expected to turn in your own son for such a thing?
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  #14  
Old 06-13-2002, 09:43 PM
Road Rash Road Rash is offline
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I do know in Tx., if you work in child care, you are legally obligated to report evidence of child abuse. How many cases they have actually brought to court, I don't know.

This is why I am puzzled that Catholic Bishops havent been tried criminally. If they knew of the abuse, they are legally liable to report it. (I know, its a hijack, but it may shed light on the law's enforcability).
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  #15  
Old 06-13-2002, 10:29 PM
doreen doreen is offline
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I'm uneasy for a different reason.It's unenforcable in many cases, and in others it will cause people to continue to withhold information who may have come forward later. Say I witness person A murdering person B. I don't have any connection to either person.The police will never know I saw anything unless I tell them. It's illegal for me not to report the murder, but I don't want to get involved so I don't report it. Am I likely to change my mind and come forward two weeks later if I might be charged with a crime? Not very

Quote:
IIRC, that was the impetus for a change in law in NY that requires reporting felonies
Do you have a cite? I don't know of any law in NY that requires everyone to report all felonies.

Doreen
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  #16  
Old 06-13-2002, 10:56 PM
robinc308 robinc308 is offline
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With the laws that do require you to report a crime, at what point do you report it?

If I suspect someone of a crime because they are acting strangely and went out the night it happened, must I report it?

If they tell me they did something and I suspect they're talking crap, must I report it?

If I see a crime committed, and kind of recognise the criminal (but am not sure), must I report it?

At what point does it become a crime for me to say nothing?
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  #17  
Old 06-14-2002, 09:19 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by EJsGirl
Aiding and abetting requires an act, not an omission.
I wonder about this. I'm not arguing that this isn't the law (you'd likely have a better clue about this than I would) but rather that I think it shouldn't apply here (my opinion being oh so important to legal theorists everywhere).

I don't believe that not telling the police about the crime as described in the OP is an omission. It is still a choice to not do a thing. It is reasonable to say that people should be accountable for their choices thus I think aiding and abetting may still apply here.
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  #18  
Old 06-14-2002, 11:01 AM
Tiburon Tiburon is offline
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The law recognizes certain relationships as having a particular obligation inherent in them which involves reporting crimes. This applies to occupations, too.

So while Joe Blow may now have to report that Ruby Sue just confessed murder to him....if Joe Blow was a cop, then he would have different obligations.

I am not, however, sure if that equates to making one thing a crime for one person and not another. That seems to me a more difficult question.

Tibs.
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  #19  
Old 06-14-2002, 02:30 PM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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Whack, I see your point, believe me, and in states that have laws about this sort of thing, it might very well apply. I'm not familiar with those laws, so I can't say.

At least in California, if you are an average citizen (not a doctor, therapist, etc, who have a different standard) who has knowledge of a crime, there is no law requiring you to come forth and provide the authorities with the information.

I had a friend who witnessed a murder. He didn't go to the police because he didn't want to be next. Legally- no problem. Morally or ethically- a whole 'nuther story, and one for another thread.
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  #20  
Old 06-14-2002, 02:58 PM
Moirai Moirai is offline
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Whack, I see your point, believe me, and in states that have laws about this sort of thing, it might very well apply. I'm not familiar with those laws, so I can't say.

At least in California, if you are an average citizen (not a doctor, therapist, etc, who have a different standard) who has knowledge of a crime, there is no law requiring you to come forth and provide the authorities with the information.

I had a friend who witnessed a murder. He didn't go to the police because he didn't want to be next. Legally- no problem. Morally or ethically- a whole 'nuther story, and one for another thread.
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  #21  
Old 06-14-2002, 02:59 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
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Slight hijack, but such an interesting story I couldn't resist:

A recent Arkansas case sought to dismiss drunk driving charges against a driver, claiming that the only testimony used to convict him was the police officer's, and under the facts of the case, the officer was guilty of letting the guy drive drunk, and was thus an accomplice to the crime! (The general rule is that accomplice testimony cannot alone serve as the evidence to sustain a conviction).

The driver was next to his car, talking to a woman, when the police officer first saw him. The officer recognized the man and knew his license was suspended. He suspected the guy would try to drive and, sure enough, a few moments later the suspect hopped into the car and drove off. The officer immediately pursued, and the car was stopped just two doors down the street. The officer noticed an open can of beer, and after failing several sobriety tests the driver was arrested for drunk driving and driving on a suspended license.

In court, the driver argued that the police officer was an accomplice to the accused's offense because the officer testified that he "knew" the accused was going to drive illegally when he first saw him, but failed to take immediate steps to prevent him from doing so. Thus, the argument went, the police officer, having a duty to prevent the commission of all crimes, was an accomplice to the crime; consequently, the evidence is insufficient because the only evidence against the accused was obtained from the police officer, an "accomplice" whose testimony must be corroborated for the evidence to be legally sufficient.

Any guesses how the case turned out?

- Rick
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  #22  
Old 06-14-2002, 03:39 PM
Ferrous Ferrous is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by yabob
Depends on the state. In many states - no. There are sometimes high profile cases which bring the issue to the front - a couple years ago, there was a case here concerning David Cash, a Berkeley student, not the baseball player. He and a friend took a trip to Las Vegas. The friend raped and murdered a seven year old girl, which Cash knew was happening, and neither did anything to stop it or report it to anybody.
Damn, that freaked me out! That's my name!

Just for the record, I am neither the scumbag rapist-friend, nor the baseball player.

(pardon my hijack)
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  #23  
Old 06-14-2002, 05:50 PM
Zoff Zoff is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by road rash
This is why I am puzzled that Catholic Bishops havent been tried criminally. If they knew of the abuse, they are legally liable to report it.
They weren't under an obligation as far as I know. In the cases I'm aware of the laws that require reporting do not cover clergy. They generally cover therapists, teachers, etc.

There might be some states that require clergy to report abuse, but it is not a universal rule.
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  #24  
Old 06-14-2002, 06:03 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Road Rash
I do know in Tx., if you work in child care, you are legally obligated to report evidence of child abuse. How many cases they have actually brought to court, I don't know.

This is why I am puzzled that Catholic Bishops havent been tried criminally. If they knew of the abuse, they are legally liable to report it. (I know, its a hijack, but it may shed light on the law's enforcability).
Catholic Bishops don't work in child care, at least within the meaning of those laws.

- Rick
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  #25  
Old 06-14-2002, 06:19 PM
wring wring is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bricker
Any guesses how the case turned out?

- Rick
My take:

The cop was not an 'accomplice' in the eyes of the law, since, the statement "the cop knew the guy was going to drive" is not really a statement of 'fact', but in the cops opinion, he suspected that the man might do so.

He only would have 'known' a crime was about to occur at the point when it did occur.

Had the other guy said to the officer "hi Joe, I'm about to drive off now, ok?" then that would have been an accomplice.

how'd I do?
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  #26  
Old 06-15-2002, 09:37 PM
monica monica is offline
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Not reporting what you know about the robbery would make you an "accessory after the fact"- and yes, that is a crime
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