Duty to report bill awaits final vote in the Utah House

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC4 News) – When you witness a crime or a medical emergency what is your responsibility?

One state lawmaker says it’s your duty to report it, and he’s running a bill to make it a crime for failure to do so.

In Utah, duty to report laws are in place to protect our youth and the elderly from abuse.

Representative Brian King wants to expand on that.

“It’s never been easier to be responsible in helping people who are vulnerable than it is right now with our cell phones and the capacity to call 911,” said King, (D) Salt Lake City.

King is working closely with University of Utah law professor, Amos Guiora.

For him, the issue hits close to home.

“For me, the whole question of complicity and the bystander is very much based on my parents’ experiences in the Holocaust,” said Guiora.

He’s written a book on those experiences and is a strong advocate for duty to report laws.

“It’s callous indifference to the terrible plight of another human being, and there are cases throughout here and also internationally,” he said.

House Bill 170 makes it a class B misdemeanor, which could include jail time, for failing to call 911 during a crime or an emergency.

It does make some exceptions for those who don’t have the ability to call or whose life may be in danger.

“The prosecutor in exercising prosecutorial discretion about whether to charge has to take into account what a reasonable person, what the range of behavior a reasonable person would be, when coming across an accident or emergency like this,” said King.

The bill is facing some opposition.

“The proposal that is before the legislature right now is just too heavy hammer. I think that’s why it failed last year, and we’re hoping it will fail again,” said Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute.

Boyack acknowledges the need to help but says the bill goes too far.

“It’s maybe morally reprehensible if you don’t report, but does that really rise to the level of a crime?” he said. 

The bill has passed through the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-1 vote.

It will likely be up for a vote in the full House early next week.

Ten other states have similar laws.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it's an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 Utah team in June, 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 Utah News at 4 Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Chief Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Utah's only statewide political talk show, Inside Utah Politics Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Read More...

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