If you have seen someone commit a crime or know of one that has already taken place, you might be wondering whether to tell someone or simply pretend to know nothing about it. You may be surprised to learn that under some circumstances, the law does not require you to file a report or intervene in any way. However, this is not always the case. The exceptions have to do with who you are, where you work and the nature of the crime.
Mandatory Crime Reporting
Many states consider certain offenses to be so egregious in nature that failure to report them amounts to a crime in itself. Workers in certain governmentally regulated fields often find themselves legally obliged to report certain wrongdoings. In addition, state and federal governments typically require ordinary citizens with knowledge of environmental and financial crimes to come forward with the information.
Reporting Child Abuse
Under the mandatory reporting laws, every state in the union requires those who work in the fields of education, health care and child supervision to report known or suspected incidents of child abuse and neglect. In Nevada, the long list of accountable individuals includes therapists, dietitians, social workers, trainers, ambulance drivers, members of the clergy and others who interact with children professionally or on a volunteer basis. Moreover, medical professionals who deliver or provide medical care to newborn babies must report suspected cases of illegal prenatal substance abuse.
Reporting Abuse of Defenseless Individuals
Mandatory reporting also applies to cases involving vulnerable victims over the age of 18 for whom certain deficiencies have restricted the ability to lead a normal life. Such individuals may suffer from mental illness, organic brain damage or any developmental disability that incapacitates them in some way.
Cases of mistreatment involving individuals over the age of 60 must also be reported. Such abuse often takes place in nursing homes and elder care facilities. Anyone who deals with vulnerable or elderly adults in a professional or volunteer capacity is under a legal mandate to report cases of suspected:
A director, manager, administrator or other person in charge of a hospital or institution is equally responsible for informing authorities of such abuse at the hands of a worker or staff member.
Reporting Suspicious Injuries
While no health care provider is legally obliged to report accidental injuries, all must do so when treating a patient for suspicious knife or gunshot wounds as well as second or third-degree burns covering more than 5 percent of the body.
Reasons for Failing to Report a Crime
A witness to a crime could have numerous reasons for remaining silent about what they’ve seen. Some fear retaliation. Others keep quiet because:
- They feel they need more proof.
- They think it’s none of their business.
- The crime seems unimportant.
- They’d rather not get involved.
- They happened to be where they didn’t belong or shouldn’t have been at the time.
Nevertheless, it is possible to report a crime anonymously. In some localities, you can even do it online. Since failure to report can count as a misdemeanor or even a felony, witnesses to reportable crimes should take advantage of these opportunities to protect their interests while doing what the law requires.
Tell the Truth or Pay the Price
Any witness who reports on a crime is legally responsible for telling the truth as far as he or she knows it. The deliberate act of making a dishonest report stands as a crime in itself. The same is true of lying to members of law enforcement about an incident that you may or may not have witnessed. Such intentional dishonesty is known as misprision. Although you may have no legal mandate to answer any questions about a particular crime, you must do so honestly if you choose to do so at all.
Finally, the law does not insist that you know for certain that the person in question has committed a crime or intends to do so in the future. Your honest suspicion will be enough. Just state your beliefs with accuracy and stick with the facts as you know them. The legal system and the courts themselves will make the final decision.
For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Weiner Law Group. Call today at 702-202-0500.