When you were a child, being called a tattle-tale was probably an insult. As you grew up, the phrase "snitches get stitches" may have seemed like an catchy and wise warning to keep quiet and mind your own business. However, there are occasions when you do have ethical and legal obligations to report criminal activity to the police.
Child Abuse Crimes
You may be aware that professionals such as therapists, teachers, physicians, and others have a duty to report child abuse. However, parents can also be held criminally liable as a result of failure to protect laws in most states for not preventing or reporting crimes against their children. In some instances a parent, has received the same or greater criminal penalties than the perpetrator, even when it was proven that the parent was a victim of domestic abuse.
Crimes by Your Minor Children
You would be very unwise to look the other way if you suspect your child is committing robbery, burglary, or engaging in gang activity or violent crimes. A parent who is having trouble controlling a preteen's or teen's behavior needs to get help, or they could end up facing civil actions, fines, and other penalties.
Accessory and Compounding Offenses
If you find out that a crime has been committed somewhere else and then you give assistance to the perpetrator(s), you could be charged as an accessory after the fact. This is especially true if the aid you rendered helped them get away or conceal the crime. You may even receive charges and penalties equivalent to what the original perpetrators receive.
If you accept payment from another person for your silence, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor charge called compounding a crime.
In certain states, such as Ohio, it is illegal to fail to inform police if you witness a felony being committed. In Texas, if you fail to report a crime that resulted in someone being injured or killed, you could face a class A misdemeanor charge. In Massachusetts, if you have knowledge of a felony and you keep quiet about it for malicious reasons, this is also a punishable crime.
If you not only fail to inform the police of a crime, but also lie about it, you could be charged with obstruction of justice.
When you know that a crime of treason or terrorism will be or has been committed, and you fail to disclose it to the proper authorities, you could receive a federal charge called misprision of a felony. Failing to report treason can net you up to seven years in a federal prison along with some fines.
When it comes to knowledge of criminal activity, failure to report the following crimes could get you in serious trouble:
- Child abuse,
- Acts of terrorism, or other
- Violent felonies.
These actions (or inactions) can also be criminal offenses:
- Lying to police,
- Accepting money to keep quiet,
- Aiding criminals to get away with offenses, and
- Being negligent in your parental duties.
If there is a chance that you could face legal consequences for failing to report criminal activity, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney, like Thomas A. Corletta Attorney at Law, for advice and help to rectify this situation.