Witness criminal prosecution

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by alan1, Oct 31, 2009.

  1. alan1
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    alan1 USMB Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Should witnesses that fail to report a crime be prosecuted?

    After reading this thread, http://www.usmessageboard.com/curre...5-yr-old-is-raped-and-beaten-at-hs-dance.html I was wondering if people think the witnesses to that brutal act that did nothing to stop it should be prosecuted in some manner?
    CA currently has a law that allows for the prosecution of somebody that is aware of sexual crimes against anybody aged 14 or younger, but does not report it.
    Could such a law have a detrimental effect? What if somebody was not aware that what they had witnessed was a crime? Suppose they found out later that is was a crime being committed? Would they be willing to come forth and testify if they knew they could potentially be prosecuted for not having contacted the police in the first place?

    I'm not talking about something so obvious as the crime in the linked thread, but something that was perhaps more ambiguous.
    While I do believe that all citizens should report crimes if they witness them, do we really want to criminalize failure to do so?
     
  2. Mr. H.
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    Mr. H. Diamond Member

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    Crimestoppers has an 800 number in most communities. Authorities are clear about the need for tips and assure callers that they will remain anonymous. Witnessing a crime doesn't necessarily make a person an accomplice to that crime.

    In the case of that 15 year old, witnesses might be given immunity in return for testifying at a trial.
     
  3. alan1
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    alan1 USMB Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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    In the case of the 15 year old, witnesses cannot be prosecuted for failure to report it. Under CA law it only applies to victims 14 and under.
    But then, that's not really the question I was asking.
     
  4. lawbuff
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    lawbuff Member

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    My state has codified that any person who fails to report a Felony is guilty of a Misdemeanor of the 4th degree. I have not read any case law on it though.

    Misprision of felony is codified under title 18 of the US code, but concerns federal crimes, case law applicable of course.

    I have no problem with it being unlawful not to report one, as long as at times it can be made anonymously at times, as retaliation of witnesses is an individual concern for those who must personally testify.

    Remember the Kitty Genovese case and the Bystander syndrome? It is a concern of involvement.

    This is one of the 1st cases I learned of when I took Criminal Law at College.
     
  5. Mr. H.
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    Mr. H. Diamond Member

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    Ah well, I just threw something out to get the thread rolling. :D

    Besides, I don't post well when I'm sober.
     
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  6. JD_2B
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    JD_2B Little Vixen

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    The fact that they did not report the crime in the first place is what the real problem is.. They knew she was being raped, and beaten.. How old she was makes no difference. To stand around and do nothing is akin to being accessory to the crime, by virtue of enabling the crime to happen, in this type of scenario.. I only bring this up because from the sounds of it, the "crime" is being said that it was a girl under 14, in your view.. but the crime was still rape and battery either way, even if it was a teacher on teacher thing. (just to clarify)

    Yep. Failing to report just seeing something that doesn't seem right to you, is a crime in itself, and ignorance of the fact that this is criminal, or what was happening was criminal, is not considered a valid affirmative defense. The laws are made public, for everyone to be aware of them.

    Not knowing that something was even happening would be a justifiable defense to not reporting it.. sure.. but the reasonable person standard is usually met when people are prosecuted for this kind of thing.

    Like- a guy who is standing outside of a building while his buddy is inside doing a drug deal, can possibly be prosecuted for not reporting the guy OR for being a lookout- however- the prosecution has to come up with a burden of proof that the guy outside was aware of the criminal activity. If the guy did not seem aware at all of it, or even knew someone outside and was chatting with them, or was on the phone, or listening to his ipod, etc.. then it would just not make sense to prosecute him.

    I saw an episode of desperate housewives recently, which I only watched for about 10 minutes, because that show is so lame now.. but anyways, the feds came in and arrested this one lady for having an indentured servant. Well, there were all these people (the stars of the show) all sitting around the dinner table, and none of them had ever seen the slave before. So, if this was a real life situation, they could not be charged with failing to report the housewife for keeping a slave.

    On the other hand, if they knew that she had someone living with her, who had to do work to live there, and was not getting paid for it, at all- then they could get charged because they are sitting back and allowing the criminal activity to take place.. and putting a great deal of hardship on the victim.
     
  7. JD_2B
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    JD_2B Little Vixen

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    That is not true.. Anyone who fails to report a crime can be held accountable, for abetting.

    CA Codes (pen:30-33)

    PENAL CODE
    SECTION 30-33
    30. The parties to crimes are classified as:
    1. Principals; and,
    2. Accessories.



    31. All persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether it
    be felony or misdemeanor, and whether they directly commit the act
    constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission, or, not
    being present, have advised and encouraged its commission, and all
    persons counseling, advising, or encouraging children under the age
    of fourteen years, or persons who are mentally incapacitated, to
    commit any crime, or who, by fraud, contrivance, or force, occasion
    the drunkenness of another for the purpose of causing him to commit
    any crime, or who, by threats, menaces, command, or coercion, compel
    another to commit any crime, are principals in any crime so
    committed.



    32. Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors,
    conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that
    said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or
    punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such
    felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is
    an accessory to such felony.



    33. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed, an
    accessory is punishable by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars
    ($5,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county
    jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     
  8. goldcatt
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    goldcatt Catch me if you can! Supporting Member

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    Sorry JD, but unless you have case law backing your analysis I disagree.

    The actions listed in s. 31 and 32 are acts of commisssion, not of omission. A simple failure to report is not the same as actively aiding or concealing the suspect.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  9. JD_2B
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    JD_2B Little Vixen

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    I disagree- Case law is not needed here- There was definitely aiding and abetting based on the fact that this went on for hours, was done by people the girl knew, and the other kids were drinking in a secluded social group outside of where the dance was taking place, who al seemed to be party to certain criminal acts, also, during this rape incident:

    The second quote shows (wont let me copy and paste for some reason) that someone invited her to come over there and drink with them, where she got drunk, and there were multiple assailants who were taking pictures, and stole her jewelery.

    The woman who alerted police heard people discussing what was happening. Clearly they knew what was going on was a crime.. They purposely got her drunk and raped her, robbed her, and brutalized her. The fucking pigs should ALL rot!! :(
     
  10. alan1
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    alan1 USMB Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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    OK, out of all that verbosity, does that mean you think a witness to a crime that fails to report said crime should be prosecuted?
     

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