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Legal Responsibilities Attached to Witnessing a Crime in California

Witnessing a crime in california

Witnessing a crime in california

As you were walking your dog, you witnessed a hit and run. No one was hurt, but the fleeing car did do quite a bit of property damage. Suddenly you’re in the middle of a moral dilemma. Should you report the crime or should you pretend it didn’t happen and simply go home.

While no one can tell you what you should do, you should know that if the police find out that you witnessed the hit and run, or any other type of crime, you should report the incident. There are some crimes, such as child abuse, where failing to report the situation could land you in hot legal water.

Why You Should Report the Crime

Witnessing a crime triggers a strange surge of emotions. On the one hand, you know you have a moral responsibility to tell the authorities what happened...

Can I Get In Trouble For Not Reporting Crimes I Witnessed?

Can I Get In Trouble For Not Reporting Crimes I Witnessed?

Can I Get In Trouble For Not Reporting Crimes I Witnessed?

When a crime occurs and you’re around to witness it, do you have to report it to the police? Is it a moral obligation or a legal one? Most people don’t really know where the line is drawn. Sometimes no, you don’t legally have to report it, but other times, yes you do.

If you assisted another person in his or her crime, but did not actually commit the crime yourself, you can be charged if you know of the illegal plan and helped facilitate it. This can be disabling a security camera while the main suspect robs a bank.

Is it illegal to not report a crime? Does it matter if the crime has already taken place, or if you believe it is about to?

If you witness someone committing a violent crime (rape, sexual assault, etc.) against a child 14 years or younger, you must report the crime...

If You File a False Report, You Will go to Jail

Cerritos Bail Bond Store

Cerritos Bail Bond Store

It is a crime to falsely report a crime. That is, you can and will get in trouble with the law if you report a crime but know that it really is not a crime. This is exactly what happened to a Los Angeles woman who, just a few weeks ago, was charged for her false report. Now she will have to pay her consequences by spending 2 months in jail.

26-year-old Charline Gatson filed a report with the police, reporting that an acquaintance approached her in her car and pulled out a gun. The acquaintance let Gatson go, but took her car. Gatson’s teenage son was still in the car, and the acquaintance drove off. The vehicle was found later in San Bernardino.

After investigators completed their work, they determined that Gatson’s carjacking and kidnapping report was false...

Moral Obligation vs. Legal Obligation to Report a Crime

Long Beach Bail Bonds

Long Beach Bail Bonds

Some
people believe that if they witness a crime, they must report it to the police; if they do not, they themselves are committing a crime. Actually though, in most cases, this is not true. A person may feel the moral obligation to report the crime, but they do not have a legal obligation to do so.

However, California

Does have mandatory reporting laws for certain people and situations. This applies to people in certain professions, like teachers, therapists, social workers, and medical professions, to name a few. If they suspect abuse against the people they are caring for, they are required to report this to the police.

Back to the general rule: if you are an ordinary citizen and you see someone stealing from a store, you are not required to report it...