(News4Utah) – Should failing to report a serious crime be a crime itself? Under a proposed new law it would be.
House Bill 125 has its roots in a horrific tragedy from 76 years ago.
“I’m the only child of two Holocaust survivors,” University of Utah College of Law Professor Amos Guiora told News4Utah. “My grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz. I spent 5 years writing a book about the bystander from the perspective of my parents as Holocaust survivors.”
Professor Guiora’s book inspired Representative Brian King (D – Salt Lake City) to write House Bill 125 “Duty to Assist In An Emergency” which would make it illegal to witness a violent crime and not call 911. Representative King emphasizes this does not require a bystander to intervene, perform first aid or risk themselves in any way.
“The only scope the bill encompasses is the failure to dial 911. Literally that’s all we’re talking about here,” Rep. King said.
News4Utah anchor Kim Fischer testified in favor of the bill as a journalist who has covered sexual assault and domestic violence and as a survivor herself.
“One of the biggest issues that happens specifically with sexual assault and domestic violence is people feel really uncomfortable like they don’t know how they can intervene and I feel like this bill gives them an option,” Fischer said. “It lets people know there is something you can do and it’s really simple and sometimes that fear of prosecution or law abiding citizens wanting to do what’s right that’ll help them go ‘OK this is what I really need to do’.”
The bill would make failing to report a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1900 fine but some committee members worry about the liability of making doing nothing a crime.
Representative V. Lowry Snow (R – St. George) voted against the bill.
“We’re saying to the people of this State if you fail to act in these situations you’re criminally liable,” Rep. Snow said. “Well clearly if I’m criminally liable I have a civil duty as well.”
In the end the Bill passed through the House Judiciary committee by a 9 to 3 vote. It now heads to the House floor for discussion.