A St. Thomas University law professor has written a provocative essay which argues that bystanders who fail to help others should face criminal charges.
|Van Gogh, Two Children
What set him off is the true story of two children’s lives lost needlessly to hurricane Sandy when they were caught in fast moving waters as their car stalled even while their mother begged neighbors for help.
The neighbors did nothing though they could easily have saved the two toddlers with no risk to themselves. Clearwater Criminal Lawyers note that the neighbors can’t be prosecuted because of the “no duty” rule which states that people are not required to help others.
Here are whittled down portions of the professor’s essay:
The “no duty” rule can be traced to the spirit of rugged capitalist individualism, the Darwinist idea that the common good is advanced through the struggles of selfish individuals…One defense of the no-duty rule is that common law exists to prevent people from harming one another, not to compel people to help one another. But modestly impinging on the individual freedom to do nothing seems reasonable when a life hangs in the balance…
A duty to help would not require bystanders to endanger themselves or provide help beyond their abilities; it could simply require warning someone of imminent danger or calling 911. It wouldn’t bring back the two boys, but … to accept our fundamental moral duty to help those in grave peril.
My first reaction, like yours my crazed reader, is to throw him a brick. Yet on second thought don’t we want to live in a society where the law supports morality, a place where moral cues can be obtained from what we as a society outlaw? Could there be anything more amoral than a society that allows anyone to stand by as children die?
With some derision a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney recently noted the new law in Florida making it a Felony not to report suspected child abuse. How can this new law be squared in allowing people to watch children die without being a good samaritan by at least calling 911 and not facing some criminal consequences? To be effective criminal law must be reasonable, but is should also be consistent.
A recent legal opinion in the 3rd DCA (Florida Appeals Court) overturned a conviction for Resisting Arrest Without Violence where it was found that the arresting officer was not engaged in the lawful execution of his legal duty when he told a juvenile to step out of the street for the juvenile’s safety.
When the juvenile refused to step out of the street the officer arrested him despite the officer having…. “no legal duty to insist on compliance and to enforce that insistence with arrest where the record shows that there were no circumstances warranting this,” which very likely is what your favorite Clearwater Defense Attorney might have said had he not been blissfully reading a mystery novel by flickering firelight at the time of this mishap or possibly simply dreaming of reading…Though this case is not binding in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Pinellas its reaffirmation of the English Common Law is well reasoned likely having a consistent result here.
At trial the officer testified as follows:
Q. Okay….Why did you initially tell him [the defendant] to get off the road?”
A. [Officer Kurless (think of his voice as coming from an impaired, nearly inebriated Sean Connery)]: Well for his safety, because cars be [sic] coming down the road and he could get hit, so we just told him to kind of step off to the side of the road.”
It’s ridiculous that to protect the child from harm the officer arrested him — placing him with criminals, destroying his reputation and ensuring that when the child grows up, for the rest of his life on any job application he’ll have to explain what happened so many years ago, because of a foolish overzealous officer who thru some horific leap of the space time continuum somehow envisions himself to be James Bond (see the above trial transcript excerpt). That juvenile needed a Pinellas Juvenile Defense Lawyer an attorney who can help any juvenile who has been charged with a crime in Pinellas County especially when it’s the officer who needs to be spanked. An arrest is among the worst things the government can do to one of its citizens, no arrest should ever be made unless there is good cause and certainly not to a juvenile…as a juvenile arrest has grave consequences.
The Court found that legal duty for an officer can arise in the following situations:
The case law provides that “legal duties” include (1) serving process; (2) legally detaining a person; or (3) asking for assistance in an emergency situation, or 4) impeding officers’ undercover activities by acting as a “lookout” during the commission of a criminal act…Although this is not an exhaustive list, it is clear that there is a difference between an officer who is engaging in the lawful execution of a legal duty, and a police officer who is merely on the job…
And the Court’s final ruling (over a furious dissenting opinion written to purge all Juvenile Jaywalkers from our streets) states emphatically that the English Common Law is still valid in Florida even if it’s not in England:
“If an arrest is not lawful, then a defendant cannot be guilty of resisting it — the common law rule still remains that a person may lawfully resist an illegal arrest without using any force or violence.”
|Clearwater Police are on the prowl…Be careful citizens.