Witnessing a crime can have significant consequences for the witness.
If you witnessed a crime or know about a crime and don’t report it, you may be concerned about legal consequences, your safety, or your moral responsibility.
Is It Illegal to Not Report a Crime?
Generally, the law does not require a person to report crimes they witness. This is true even with advanced warning of the crime. However, there are instances in which witnessing a crime carries legal obligations and potential penalties.
Aiding a Crime
While failing to report a crime is not, in itself, a crime, aiding or concealing the commission of a crime is illegal. Aiding a crime is criminal even if you weren’t present during its commission, if you helped to conceal the crime or helped the perpetrators avoid arrest.
Ohio state law prohibits aiding a crime under the complicity statute. Potential penalties for a complicity conviction mirror those of the principal offense. For example, a person who aids in the commission of a burglary can face the same penalties as if they committed burglary.
Ohio, like other states, requires certain professionals to report abuse they witness or even hear about. Examples of professionals covered by mandatory reporting laws include attorneys, day care personnel, nurses, and social workers.
A mandatory reporter has the option to report alleged abuse anonymously. Not reporting a crime under this rule can result in misdemeanor criminal charges and may impact the professional’s license.
Failure to Report a Crime Under Federal Law
Failing to report a crime is punishable under federal law in some instances. Failure to report a felony can result in federal charges if you know about the commission of a felony, the felony occurred, and the felony is a federal offense. This is known as misprision of a felony.
The potential penalties for failing to report a federal felony offense include a fine of up to $150,000 and/or up to three years in federal prison. Misprision of a felony is difficult to prove, mostly because of the right to avoid self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.
In Ohio, you can be charged with complicity even if the principal offender isn’t charged. Possible defenses against complicity include:
- Lack of intent,
- Duress, and
Abandonment requires you to establish that you withdrew and terminated your complicity before the crime was committed or attempted. Establishing this defense requires proving that the termination was a complete and voluntary withdrawal.
How We Can Help
Gounaris Abboud, LPA, is an Ohio-based law firm with decades of experience. We represent clients in criminal defense, family law, and personal injury cases. We pride ourselves as being bold and courageous advocates who will do the utmost to assist our clients.
Contact us online today or call 937-22-1515 for a free case analysis. We will talk through your case with you and determine whether we are the best attorneys for your case. We will walk you through your options, step by step, and fight for your best outcome.