2018 Bills

HB 125: Criminal Punishment for Not Calling 911

This bill failed in the House by a vote of 20-51. 

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

Last year, teenagers observed a man drowning, laughing at him and recording his death. They indicated to the man that they would not help him as he struggled in the water.

This horrific incident has led many policy makers to reconsider laws regarding a failure to assist a person during an emergency. Representative Brian King sponsored House Bill 125, which initially made it a crime for denying “reasonable assistance” to a person suffering serious bodily injury due to a crime or emergency.

The bill has since been amended to only require the person to call authorities, rather than taking other actions to “reduce the likelihood of an individual suffering serious bodily injury.” As currently drafted, it is a class B misdemeanor if you:

  • know a crime or emergency is occurring;
  • know that somebody is suffering serious bodily injury (or is about to) as a result of the crime or emergency;
  • are able to call authorities; and
  • choose not to call authorities.

While such instances are problematic and concerning, there may be alternative reasons why a person elects not to call authorities—decision paralysis, fear, etc. Allowing a prosecutor to later seek punishment for a person who made a bad moral judgment, but who did not necessarily intend to aid in the continued injury of the person, is a bad policy decision that unnecessarily criminalizes Utahns who find themselves in such a circumstance.

  • Jalyn

    Just FYI the part that says ABLE to call authorities includes the examples you wrote about e.g. decision paralysis, fear. Also the bill includes that you only have to call if you can do so WITHOUT endangering yourself or others. It’s a hard bar to pass. Four states have bills that require calling 911 and providing assistance and they have had this legislation for over 30 years.
    The only argument against this bill that cannot be argued with is: “I wish to reserve my right to view a person suffering serious bodily injury and not call 911.” If that is the right the people want to preserve then by all means vote down all attempts for this bill to get passed.
    If it helps think about yourself or a family member suffering and unable to help themselves. Wouldn’t you like to know that there is a motivation for callous individuals to, rather than pull out their phone and film, to call 911? With filming capabilities of cell phones more and more individuals are making the conscious decision to go for the viral video over the life saving call.

    • Jim S.

      In a free society, yes, some jerks may do exactly what you say they’ll do.

      However, most people will either assist, or call for assistance without a government mandate (sometimes called a “law”).

      Freedom means that you decide what you’ll do – not someone else. There should be no compulsion to call 911. Period.

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