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Posted on March 19, 2019 in Firm News

Can You Face Charges If You Fail to Report a Crime?

You may certainly face criminal charges if you commit a crime, but it is also possible for you to face criminal charges for the actions of another party if you knew of a criminal act but failed to report it. While it is generally not illegal to fail to report a crime, many states have enacted laws stating otherwise. It is almost always the best course of action to report any criminal activity of which you are aware as soon as possible; failure to do so could lead to severe penalties in some states.

States With Reporting Laws

In Texas, you could face criminal charges if you knew about any criminal activity but did not report it and the activity results in bodily injury or death to someone else. In Ohio, it is illegal to fail to report any felony. If you are unsure about your state’s reporting laws, check your state’s penal code and determine your obligations should you witness any kind of criminal activity.

Many states uphold mandatory reporting laws for professionals in certain positions. For example, most states require pediatricians to file reports if they suspect any child in their care is suffering domestic abuse from his or her parents. Teachers and other childcare professionals also have similar reporting requirements. If your job requires you to act as a mandatory reporter it is imperative to follow this directive. You could face misdemeanor charges or worse if you do not.

Possible Charges for Failing to Report a Crime

Failing to report a crime is one matter, but helping someone conceal criminal activity is much worse, and you could face charges of being an accessory after the fact even if you were not present when a criminal act took place. For example, if your friend tells you he robbed a store and asks you to hide his gun, doing so would make you an accessory after the fact. Depending on where you live, failing to report your friend to the authorities would constitute legal penalties against you.

Being an accessory after the fact counts as aiding and abetting a crime. Depending on the crime in question, this could lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. If you encounter any type of situation in which you face such charges, you need a criminal defense attorney to navigate you through the ordeal.

Defenses Against Accessory Charges

You are an accessory to a crime if you do anything to help the perpetrators commit the crime or assist them in concealing their involvement in any way. This could mean being an accessory before or after the fact, and you could face severe legal penalties in either situation. Relatively few defenses are available:

  • Claim of no knowledge. If your friend asks to borrow your car and you allow it, and your friend uses the car to commit a robbery, you were not an accessory because you had no knowledge that your friend intended to use your vehicle for an illegal purpose. This may be difficult to prove, but an experienced defense attorney can help you.
  • Claim of no intent. You may face charges as an accessory if someone else uses you to commit a crime without your knowledge. For example, a friend claims he has a job interview and asks you to pick him up at a specific time. When you arrive, your friend hops in the car and asks you to leave the area as quickly as possible. You later discover your friend committed a crime and essentially used you as a getaway driver without your knowledge. You had no intention of helping your friend commit the crime, and your attorney can help you prove this in court if necessary.

It is important to understand when you need a defense attorney. If you face charges as any kind of accessory to a crime, you need an attorney who can help guide you through the legal process and prove your innocence.