Five Examples Where Doing Nothing is a Crime

By | August 15, 2011

Most of us associate the word “crime” with a very conscientious activity. We picture burglars scoping out neighborhoods, donning ski masks, and taking pains to avoid leaving any evidence behind.

Sure, these are certainly crimes – but that doesn’t mean you always have to be very proactive to commit a crime.

In fact, there are some cases in which doing nothing can be a crime. Sometimes, these crimes add more trouble to what’s already been done; in other cases, you might find trouble where you never had it before. So if you don’t like the prospect of ever getting arrested, you’ll want to learn that sometimes you have to go out of your way not to commit a crime. Here are five examples.

1. Failing to Report an Accident

Automobile accidents can be devastating tragedies, no doubt, but they can also be minor fender-benders. But you can turn even an innocent fender-bender into a more serious crime if you do nothing after the fender-bender and decide not to report an accident to the police.

Of course, not reporting an accident can have more serious consequences depending on the seriousness of the accident itself. It becomes a “hit and run” case if you hit someone and drive off, not taking the time to make sure that you meet all of your legal obligations. While many people think they can get away with a hit and run case, what often happens is they simply add more trouble than they started with.

2. Leaving the scene of a crime.

In the above example, we listed the “hit and run” as a classic case of doing nothing and adding more trouble than you ever needed. There are other cases where a similar strategy of “crime avoidance” can become a crime in and of itself.

Because police have enough trouble solving cases even with the cooperation of innocent bystanders, it can be an added crime if you participate in a crime and leave the scene. This is most evident in traffic cases, of course, but you’ll find that fleeing the scene of a crime can add even more trouble.

Consider, for example, people who speed off after filling a tank of gas and declining to pay for it. That might be easier than paying for the gas, sure, but in the end, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

3. White collar crimes.

When you see fraud happening in a white collar case, the failure to report the crime can become a case against you: if you didn’t report a crime as it was happening, after all, you were partially responsible for letting the fraud to continue to occur. In the white collar world, this is a frequent theme of many crimes, and often means that people who never wanted to get involved with a criminal act found themselves involved anyway. The cost of doing nothing out of fear of losing one’s job is understandable, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a crime.

Words like “aiding/abetting” or “accomplice” might sound too serious to describe someone who simply declines to report a crime, but you’d be surprised how seriously you can be charged even if you felt you simply “did nothing.”

4. “Good Samaritan” Laws

Sometimes, a law might require that you take action. In this case, your inactivity becomes the crime. This is more prevalent in “Good Samaritan” laws. These laws can actually be quite rare and only apply in a few situations, but that doesn’t mean they won’t apply if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Generally, you don’t have to worry about Good Samaritan laws, as most of these laws will make it clear that you don’t have to endanger your own life to stop a crime. Still, know your local laws so that you’re never stuck on the wrong end of a “Good Samaritan” situation.

5. Resisting arrest. Okay, so resisting arrest hardly qualifies as “doing nothing,” but you might feel as if you’ve done nothing when arrested. If you subsequently resist arrest because you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, you’re actually just compounding your problems. If you truly are innocent, you should expect the justice system to discover that fact; otherwise, you just make yourself look even guiltier because you wanted to escalate what was already happening. Running away from police officers can have the same effect in certain situations, so make sure you understand the law as it pertains to dealing with police officers before you do anything incriminating.

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