HB 125: Criminal Punishment for Not Calling 911
This bill failed in the House by a vote of 20-51.
Last year, teenagers observed a man drowning, laughing at him and recording his death. They indicated to the man that they would not help him as he struggled in the water.
This horrific incident has led many policy makers to reconsider laws regarding a failure to assist a person during an emergency. Representative Brian King sponsored House Bill 125, which initially made it a crime for denying “reasonable assistance” to a person suffering serious bodily injury due to a crime or emergency.
The bill has since been amended to only require the person to call authorities, rather than taking other actions to “reduce the likelihood of an individual suffering serious bodily injury.” As currently drafted, it is a class B misdemeanor if you:
- know a crime or emergency is occurring;
- know that somebody is suffering serious bodily injury (or is about to) as a result of the crime or emergency;
- are able to call authorities; and
- choose not to call authorities.
While such instances are problematic and concerning, there may be alternative reasons why a person elects not to call authorities—decision paralysis, fear, etc. Allowing a prosecutor to later seek punishment for a person who made a bad moral judgment, but who did not necessarily intend to aid in the continued injury of the person, is a bad policy decision that unnecessarily criminalizes Utahns who find themselves in such a circumstance.