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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

A duty to report?

It's not absolute, but we have something called the "American bystander rule." (pdf file) In the United States in general, we do not have have a legal duty to intervene if someone else is in danger (regardless of whatever moral duty we might or might not have). Would we be better served with something like the Good Samaritan rule in Europe and some jurisdictions here that requires intervention, at least of the level of reporting a crime?

To wit:

In the wake of the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a California high school, some are questioning Indiana's lack of laws requiring bystanders to report serious crimes.

[. . .]

Indiana does have laws requiring people report child or elderly abuse.


State Rep. Vanessa Summers said she wants to investigate the issue further and discuss the possibility of expanding the law to include other serious crimes.

I have mixed feelings. I can see a lot of reasons not to require actual intervention, but reporing a crime seems like basic citizenship, i.e. doing for others in trouble what I would want them to do for me if I were in trouble. On the other hand, I can see problems in enforcing such a law, which would make it tough to apply uniformly.

What do you think?


tim zank
Fri, 10/30/2009 - 10:26am

Again, the government needs to tell us what to do, when to do it, and punish us for not doing it? No need for parents to instill values, Uncle Sam will simply mandate it. We've come a long way haven't we?

Bob G.
Fri, 10/30/2009 - 10:30am

In today's uber-PC world, it would seem you're damned if you DO, and damned if you DON'T...
And we'd have to watch for the ACLU if we even considered placing MORALITY in any situation regarding basic citizenship.
(they'd argue your're inflicting religion on the issue)

I say YOU do what YOU feel is right...and for the safety of ALL involved (including yourself).
Worry about the repercussions afterwards.

Kevin Knuth
Fri, 10/30/2009 - 11:06am

walk inside the building, dial 911, report what you saw then walk away. No hassles, but you have done what you can.

tim zank
Fri, 10/30/2009 - 1:14pm

Worlds Collide! Knuth is right!! I agree!! Bobby is right too about helping/interfering, it can get ya sued or jailed or both.

Fri, 10/30/2009 - 4:01pm

If one of the talking heads on CNN (I've forgotten her name) is to be taken seriously, any photo or video of the rape, such as a bystander might have taken with a cell phone, could be considered "kiddie porn," and its possessor could be prosecuted. Way to go lady, now anybody with useful evidence will erase it rather than provide it to prosecutors. Geez...