Duty to Rescue/Report Statutes

Since the topic has come up, I thought I’d pass along the list I have of state statutes that impose a duty to rescue crime victims, or report crimes. This might help people see the different ways these duties have been crafted in the past — generally quite narrowly, but sometimes more broadly.

I focus on duties applicable to the general public, and do not include special duties imposed on particular categories of people, such as doctors, teachers, and the like. These are all the statutes I know of, but there might well be others.

Note that, unless otherwise specified, the statutes will likely apply only when the person actually believes that he is (or at least might well be) witnessing a crime or emergency. If he is reasonably mistaken about what’s going on, he’ll (theoretically) be off the hook; and under most of the statutes — the ones that don’t specifically limit this to a reasonable mistake — this would be true even if he is honestly but unreasonably mistaken about what’s going on.

Law Covered situations Scope of duty Exceptions or limitations Penalty
California Penal Code § 152.3 Any person who reasonably believes that he or she has observed the commission of [murder, rape, or lewd conduct with an under-14-year-old by use of violence or threat] where the victim is a child under the age of 14 years shall notify [or attempt to notify] a peace officer [but not if doing so would] affect privileged relationships as provided by law [or if the person] is related to either the victim or the offender, including a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, or other person related by consanguinity or affinity [or if the person] fails to report based on a reasonable fear for his or her own safety or for the safety of his or her family [or if the person] fails to report based on a reasonable mistake of fact up to 6 months in jail, up to $1500 fine, or both
Florida Stat. Ann. ch. 794.027 A person who observes the commission of the crime of sexual battery and who … [h]as reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has observed the commission of a sexual battery [shall, if possible,] seek assistance for the victim or victims by immediately reporting such offense to a law enforcement officer [unless he would] be exposed to any threat of physical violence for seeking such assistance [or is] the husband, wife, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, or sister of the offender or victim, by consanguinity or affinity [or is] the victim up to 1 year in jail (first-degree misdemeanor)
Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 663-1.6 Any person at the scene of a crime who knows that a victim of the crime is suffering from serious physical harm shall obtain or attempt to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel if the person can do so without danger or peril to any person petty misdemeanor penalties
Massachusetts Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268, § 40, ch. 269, § 18 Whoever knows that another person is a victim of aggravated rape, rape, murder, manslaughter or armed robbery [or hazing] and is at the scene of said crime shall report said crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable to the extent that said person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others $500 to $2500 fine [or up to $1000 fine as to hazing]
Minnesota Stat. Ann. § 604A.01 A person at the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is exposed to or has suffered grave physical harm shall … give reasonable assistance to the exposed person[, which] may include obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel to the extent that the person can do so without danger or peril to self or others petty misdemeanor penalties
Ohio Rev. Code § 2921.22 [Any] person, knowing that a felony [or one of a list of computer hacking offenses] has been or is being committed [or any person who discovers a dead body], shall … report such information to law enforcement authorities [except if the information arises in a privileged relationship, such as attorney-client or husband-wife, or the information would tend to incriminate a member of the actor's immediate family] fourth-degree misdemeanor penalties
Rhode Island Stat. §§ 11-1-5.1, 11-56-1 A person who knows that another person is a victim of sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, or armed robbery and who is at the scene of the crime [or a]ny person at the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is exposed to, or has suffered, grave physical harm shall … report the crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable [or, as to the emergency provision,] give reasonable assistance to the [victim] to the extent that the person can do so without danger of peril to the person or others up to 6 months in jail, or a fine of $500 to $1000
Vermont Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 519 A person who knows that another is exposed to grave physical harm shall … give reasonable assistance to the exposed person unless that assistance or care is being provided by others to the extent that the [assistance] can be rendered without danger or peril to himself or without interference with important duties owed to others fine of up to $100
Washington Rev. Code Ann. § 9.69.100(1) A person who witnesses the actual commission of: (a) A violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or preparations for the commission of such an offense; (b) A sexual offense against a child or an attempt to commit such a sexual offense; or (c) An assault of a child that appears reasonably likely to cause substantial bodily harm to the child, shall as soon as reasonably possible notify the prosecuting attorney, law enforcement, medical assistance, or other public officials shall as soon as reasonably possible notify [or attempt to notify] the prosecuting attorney, law enforcement, medical assistance, or other public officials [but this shall not] affect privileged relationships as provided by law [and] a person is not required to report under this section where that person has a reasonable belief that making such a report would place that person or another family or household member in danger of immediate physical harm gross midemeanor penalties
Wisconsin Stat. Ann. § 940.34 Any person who knows that a crime is being committed and that a victim is exposed to bodily harm shall summon law enforcement officers or other assistance or shall provide assistance to the victim [unless] assistance is being summoned or provided by others [unless c]ompliance would place him or her in danger [or] would interfere with duties the person owes to others. class C misdemeanor penalties