SALT LAKE CITY(News4Utah) – A bill being considered on Utah’s Capitol Hill would extend the definition of who could be held accountable for a crime.
It’s timely, given the attention to sexual assault across the country.
One by one, public figures are being ousted as a wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations sweeps the country.
University of Utah law professor and author, Amos Guiora says often times it goes beyond the perpetrator in cases of sexual violence.
“Doesn’t happen without bystanders who were there. I mean, Harvey Weinstein had a network, there is no other way to put it. And, they all, for their own purposes chose to turn a blind eye,” said Guiora.
Guiora examines the issue in his book, Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust.
He draws the conclusion that those who do nothing in situations of sexual assault, domestic violence or any other crime should be charged.
“I don’t view it through the lens of morality, or ethics or logically. As a law professor, I view this through the lens of the law. I think a bystander that does not act, indeed bears culpability,” Guiora said.
Guiora is consulting Representative Brian King on a bill that would give prosecutors discretion to charge bystanders in our state.
House Bill 125, Duty to Assist in an Emergency would put a Class B misdemeanor on the table for witnesses who show callous indifference.
“I want to send a message to the people of the State of Utah, and to ourselves. Look, we have an obligation to act in a decent, humane manner when we see something going wrong,” said King, (D) Salt Lake City.
That doesn’t mean you personally intervene, but it can be as simple as dialing 911.
“Do something to stop it. That doesn’t mean putting yourself at risk, but it means making a phone call to someone who can deal with the situation,” King said.
Some are concerned this bill could be applied too broadly and lead to prosecutorial overreach. King says he is working to address that.
He hopes to get the bill out of rules and into a committee later this week.