Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Are You Required to Help Someone in Trouble?

If someone else is in danger, do you have a legal duty to help them? In an emergency, we hope most folks would do the right thing. However, what is the right thing to do? The answer is varied and different for every circumstance.

The question has been debated this week as the nation watched five teens videotape a man drowning in a pond. They watched and laughed as the man died without trying to help or calling 911. The videotape was saddening and disturbing at the same time. Have we raised our children not to treat others as they would wish to be treated?

After viewing the video, Florida authorities said the five teens did not break the law. In the state of Florida, there is not a law that requires one to render help to someone else in distress. However, what would be the verdict if this same incident happened in the Commonwealth? There are many laws in Massachusetts that protect those rendering aid from liability. While there is not a law requiring a bystander to provide assistance to a distressed individual, the Commonwealth does have a "duty to aid" law that requires a witness to report an emergency situation.

Massachusetts Law: Chapter 268, section 40 states “Whoever knows that another person is a victim of aggravated rape, rape, murder, manslaughter or armed robbery and is at the scene of said crime shall, to the extent that said person can do so without danger or peril to himself or others, report said crime to an appropriate law enforcement official as soon as reasonably practicable.”

In the Commonwealth, you should call 911 or report the incident to law enforcement officials immediately. If not, you could be charged with breaking this law, and you could be fined between $500 and $2500 for not reporting the incident.

Good Samaritan Laws protects individuals who voluntarily help other people in distress. These laws are created to encourage people to get involved and be their brother's keeper during times of peril. When you witness an emergency situation by which someone is hurt, you should remember these laws will protect you and allow you to be a Good Samaritan and come to the rescue of a victim in need. These laws allow heroes to emerge in a crisis and perform heroic deeds under stressful situations.

When you are in the Massachusetts if you do not wish to be a hero by helping a distressed victim, you can at least be a good citizen. Always report the incident to the proper authorities. You will not only have a good conscience but also may keep yourself from having to pay a hefty fine for your refusal to report.

If you are charged with refusing to report an incident involving a person in distress, contact a reliable criminal defense attorney. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case. Contact attorney Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.