It is becoming rare to turn on the television and not see a video of some crime that was recorded by the watchful eye of someone’s cell phone or mobile device. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that person didn’t put the phone down and call for help o in any way help to stop it? Moreover, did you notice that there were tons of people standing around watching an incident, but no one stepped in?
Although you would assume that someone has a moral obligation to step in to stop violence and crime, the facts are that they have no legal responsibility to do anything. In Michigan, there are no laws that make it illegal to watch a crime being committed and to not take action. Local law enforcement might be disappointed and upset that people don’t feel the need to do anything, but they have no recourse against witnesses who don’t try to help.
It isn’t that getting a video of the incident isn’t a good idea for both the criminal prosecution of the people involved and for any resulting personal injury suits. It is just that the people in the video might be better served if someone put the camera down while someone else is taping, so that they can make a call to end it. We’re a society that has become gladiator spectators, where people seem more concerned with getting the best shot and the most likes on YouTube than they are with assisting fellow neighbors, friends, and strangers who need help.
When Detroit Police Chief James Craig stood in front of the cameras commenting on the latest online video fight, he admitted that although there was no recourse for those who stand by and commit crimes, it is nonetheless an offense. He also talked about an incident where a man and woman were stabbed in a fight, and barely anyone called 911 to report the incident.
Many legislators are looking at the recent incidents and wondering if there is something that they can do to stop the glorification of violence on social media sites. Many believe that the best way to curb increasing violence is to hold people accountable for not only participating in acts, but also to hold them accountable when they don’t at the very least take steps to call 911 for help. Obviously, you can’t force someone to step in and potentially put themselves into harm’s way, but creating legislation to at a minimum call 911 is not an unrealistic measure.
Currently, unless a Criminal lawyer in Boston MA can prove that a person is directly involved in a crime, then there is no potential for them to be held liable. If you are a bystander, and potentially not a very good person for not helping, that still doesn’t make you criminally liable for the actions of someone else.
The problem is that if legislators start to put rules into place about what an individual’s responsibility is to those around them, it could be a slippery slope that leads to people losing their right to freedom of choice. The government can’t legislate morality or tell someone when they have a legal responsibility to step in to help or to intervene. It isn’t reasonable that you could prosecute someone for being an innocent bystander in a crime.
If legislators try to compel people to step in, that could put those who intervene at risk. It isn’t just about physically intervening; it is a safety issue. What if a bystander calls 911 and there are repercussions for them in their community or neighborhood?
If it is a gang-related incident, the last thing that anyone wants to do is to punish someone for putting a video on the internet and not calling — if they failed to call out of fear of reprisal. If Michigan starts to legislate how to behave morally, then there is really no situation that the government can’t try to dictate.
The technicalities of technology and law continue to mount, with everything from cellphones and driving distracted to filming instead of calling law enforcement when someone is in trouble. The fact is that no matter what you think someone should morally do, you can’t legislate being a good person or taking personal responsibility for something that isn’t your problem or that you aren’t even involved in.