Wednesday, November 07, 2012


A St. Thomas University law professor has written a provocative essay which argues that bystanders who fail to help others should face criminal charges. 
shouldn't the law require us to render aid to children if their lives are endangered in Florida?
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.