Should Utah citizens face criminal charges for failing to assist in an emergency?

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ST. GEORGE — A proposed bill planned for the 2018 Utah Legislative session would require Utah citizens to provide assistance to others in the event of a crime or other emergency.

The bill, proposing a Duty to Assist in an Emergency law and designated as HB 125 in the 2018 session, seeks to bring the penalty of law down upon those who fail to act or call for help for someone in need in cases where there is a reasonable and safe opportunity to assist.

Sponsored by Utah House Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, HB 125 would make it a class B misdemeanor if a bystander fails to take reasonable action to help an individual in peril.

If enacted, the bill would also amend provisions of the Good Samaritan Act to provide immunity from liability to a person who provides assistance in accordance with the requirements of the bill.

King, who reportedly worked with University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law professor Amos Guiora on issues related to bystander intervention prior to drafting the bill, was quoted by the university as saying his bill does not require anyone to take actions that would put themselves at risk or in danger to help another human being.

“We’re talking about addressing the most clear-cut and callous examples of indifference to other people in need,” King said, adding:

If a person sees a crime being committed, or sees someone in dire need of help, but that person intentionally chooses not to call for help, that may make them complicit. In those circumstances, I think it is appropriate to give our prosecutors tools to ensure there are consequences.


Read more: See all St. George News stories related to Utah’s 2018 Legislative session

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  • John January 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    No. Sorry,but you can not make a law to force somebody to be compassionate. This bill is as useless as a bill to outlaw stupid..If we could enforce that one , Brian King could be charged.

  • ladybugavenger January 9, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    I worked at walmart in Washington county and the policy was that only a manager can call 911 and employees cannot touch anyone in distress. I always found that to be disheartening. I did not come across a situation where I had to choose between my job or someone’s life-but that’s an awful position to put in for those that have.

    I understand walmart doesnt want lawsuits.

    Customers would ask me to call the police for them. For example, they saw a dog in a hot car and I would tell them, I can’t call 911, but you can.

    As a customer know that if you feel a situation needs police than please call them yourself.

    Back to this law, the only reasons someone would not get someone help or report a crime is 1. Fear of a false report charge (does one really know enough of the situation to call) and 2. They are part of it. (Part of a society that has bleeding hearts for criminals and gives them more rights than law abiding citizens)

  • ladybugavenger January 9, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Headline says failing to assist in emergency. Then if you keep reading it also adds the “if the person sees a crime being committed….that person intentionally chooses not to call for help, that may make them complicit…”

    What’s the purpose of this law?

    Be careful what you are voting for. Read the whole bill

  • DRT January 9, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    This is just another one of those useless bills that do nothing other than to get the author’s and the sponsor’s name in front of the public. Just more do nothing political garbage.
    As someone pointed out, this is very like drafting a bill to make stupid illegal.

  • Uncle Lenny January 9, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Maybe someone is trying to top the 500 bills they passed last year.

  • ScanMeister January 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    I would rather see more protection for good Samaritan against lawsuits that might be levied against them.

  • Anon January 9, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Ok, the part that concerns me is this, “(2) An individual is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the individual: (a) knows that a crime is about to be committed, is being committed, or has been committed”. To me, this seems too broad. I mean, think of the definition of a crime. Technically, speeding is a crime. Are we supposed to call the police for every speeder we see or face a class B misdemeanor? What about jaywalking? Red-light runners? Tailgaters? I mean, if you see this happen, you call in, and you end up being the only witness, are you mandated to go in and testify against the individual? Doesn’t seem like this bill has been thoroughly thought through.

  • NickDanger January 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    I’m originally from Tennessee. We have a Good Samaritan law there that is much, much better than this one. The point of the law is to protect the good Samaritan, not to penalize citizens for failing to do what is not their job to do in the first place.

    Example, under the Tennessee Good Samaritan law, if I see a dog trapped in a hot car, I can take any step necessary to relieve the situation, up to and including picking up a giant rock and smashing the window of the car. If I do so, I am protected, I can’t be sued or prosecuted for damaging the car. There’s no provision that punishes me for FAILING to do that, just a law that allows me to do it. Likewise if I see a person under attack and choose to attack the attacker, I am not liable for what might ensue – I am protected because I’m trying to help.

    Maybe Utah lawmakers should stop looking for new ways to punish people and start looking for new ways to encourage people to do the right thing.

    • Craig January 9, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      Very nicely outlined – and common sense,

    • ladybugavenger January 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      ND, I’m glad you interpreted it that way.

      I interpreted it as people are going to be charged for not reporting a crime or getting help for people. I interpreted it as a punishment, not as a stand your ground law. Better check the wording on the bill before voting. Just sayin’

  • Craig January 9, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Though I certainly see the logic to this, I do tire of the government entering every corner of our lives and claiming authority to regulate us.

  • comments January 9, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    So… you better be a hero, or else! Sounds like soviet russia.

    Couple rules to live by when out heroing

    1-we don’t go heroing kids because we don’t need to be accused of ____________ do i even need to say it?
    2-we don’t go heroing women because we don’t need to be accused of “sexual misconduct”. we don’t need any more #MeToo’s.

    We have to protect ourselves in these modern times and heroing and good samaritan(ing ….lol) can get a guy in more trouble than it’s worth, and get you on the sex offender registry for a lifetime. So are you gonna jump into a lake to save a drowning child when there’s a high probability it will get you on the sex offender registry for a lifetime? I know I’d stop and think twice about it. cheers 😉

  • utahdiablo January 9, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    How about a bill to end Daylight Savings time here in Southern Utah? ….Nothing like 105 – 115 degree summers days where the sun doesn’t set until 10 pm….and you can’t cool your home down until Midnight….then in early November it gets dark at 5 pm with the fall back?…….stop the maddness

    • ladybugavenger January 10, 2018 at 8:43 am

      I’ll vote for that! This dark at 5:00 jive is depressing!

  • Give-It-A-Name- January 10, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Am I the only one who sees the main reason behind this enforcement of common decency?? We are living in a society that Heroin and other Opiates are easily accessible. There are and will be overdoses at parties, etc. No one seems to call the paramedics until its way too late.

    • Anon January 10, 2018 at 8:27 am

      Common decency – as well as compassion, charity, good will – have to be freely given. They should not be compelled. In your analogy, the people with the overdosing individual may not want to call the authorities for fear of being charged themselves with felony drug possession. A better way to encourage people in that situation would be that if you call and are using as well, you will only be charged a misdemeanor.

      No, as much as I hate to say it, comments was right as far as this bill being more like the Soviet Union or even Nazi Germany where your encourage to tell on your neighbor.

  • justsaying January 10, 2018 at 9:58 am

    hey, I didn’t see anything

  • Give-It-A-Name- January 10, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    I agree with you on many levels. Enforcing laws that penalize one for being a decent human in the attempt to save a life has a certain Nazi vibe to it.
    The Elephant in the room that has been ignored for decades should not be used as an open door to take away civil rights.
    Where do we start to make a change?? Our loved ones are dying out there…

  • kerrygunter January 10, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    I read this bill and in my opinion it’s very vague in what a person is supposed to do or react in an medical emergency.
    As of now if your trained in basic CPR, 1st aid and AED it’s voluntary for you to render assistance to a person in need.

    As an instructor for CPR, 1st Aid and AED and a person who has used an AED and saved someone’s life, I see this bill as a slippery slope because it does not address the human factor of a basic trained responder. A person who is trained in advanced life saving skills (EMT) has been trained and taught strenuously on the wow factor of a sever medical emergency. Has had months and years of training. What this bill is saying a person who has been trained in very basic life saving skills from a great, good or a poor instructor and for around 4-6 HRs max every two years will be held criminally liable for not rendering aid.

    Not to mention how can the govt. require a person to put their own health at risk from a possibility of contracting a BLood Borne Pathogens if they don’t have the necessary personal protection equipment on their persons. As a provider you’ll need to ask yourself if criminal charges out weigh jeopardizing your own health or the health of my friends and family.

    Now me I personally will render aid to anyone that needs medical assistance and give them the best care I personally can through my training anytime or any where. It’s a moral decision for me at that time.

    It’s to vague of a bill that could cause more injuries to the public than giving assistance to a person.

    What I support in HB125

    Reporting a crime or aiding law enforcement or medical and 1st responders when asked or required. I believe we have not only a civic duty to protect each other from criminals but assist where and when needed.

    I believe the sponsor is on the right track but needs to pull this bill from consideration or committee due to it being so poorly written and so vague to who and how and why and where and when a person must render medical assistance.

    Just my opinion.
    Kerry Gunter

  • youcandoit January 11, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Here in Utah when I was in medical school under medical law doctors are protected by the good Samaritan act. Nowadays if you help a citizen they can sue you and on criminal level if you wittness something you will have to take the time off work to possibly testify. Nobody can afford that. It always goes back to money.

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