People who witness a criminal act can respond in a variety of ways. It is possible that a person may decide to intervene and attempt to stop the crime from happening. Or, they may call local law enforcement and report it. Then there are those who may completely ignore it and take no action. A common question people have is if they see a crime happening, are they legally required to report it? In general, you will not be subject to legal repercussions if you do not report a crime, but there are some situations in which you could be.
When are You Required to Report a Crime?
There are several instances in which you can forgo reporting a criminal act that you have knowledge of and remain free from the heavy hand of the law. That is to say, not reporting a crime is not always a crime itself and therefore, not punishable. But there are exceptions to this.
One way that your knowledge can be criminal is when you are aiding and abetting a crime. Even if you did not commit a crime, if it can be shown that you have aided and abetted a criminal action, you are now liable for potential charges.
Under California’s parties to crime laws, when you have taken action that helped another party carry out a crime, you will be considered an aider and abettor. The actions that would deem you as such include:
- You knew the details of the criminal scheme another party was planning.
- You embolden another person to act on their criminal plan.
- You assisted with the criminal activity.
For instance, maybe you helped cover up a criminal act or you provided assistance devising its plot but when the crime was committed you physically were not there. You are still implicated in the criminal act and can be charged.
Another instance in which you may suffer negative legal consequences when you have knowledge of a crime is if your job requires you to report incidents of child neglect and abuse. Professions that are under this mandatory duty include teachers, social workers, and firefighters.
Knowing about child abuse happening or simply having a reasonable belief that it is happening even if you do not have concrete evidence, means you must report it. There is also a time requirement for specific professionals to make these reports. Fines and jail time are realities that can come from failing your responsibility to preserve the welfare of children.
Last, federal laws make a failure to report felony federal offenses a crime. You would be considered to be obstructing justice and if convicted, fines and jail time can ensue.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you were in a position where you are obligated to report a crime, there are likely options to do so anonymously. Still, it is helpful to understand your responsibilities and expectations under the law when it comes to reporting a crime. Doing so may prevent you from making a mistake that can result in extensive criminal repercussions and personal hardships.
If you have been charged with a crime, getting legal representation is incredibly important for protecting your rights. Call the San Diego criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje today at (619) 229-1870 for the San Diego office or (760) 476-0901 for the Carlsbad location.