You just watched your neighbor commit a crime. You know what they did was illegal, but you aren’t sure what you should do about the situation. You don’t want to get anyone in trouble. On the other hand, you know you don’t like the idea of living next to someone who blatantly breaks the law.
Assuming that your neighbor didn’t break a minor law, like jaywalking, it’s in your best legal interest to report the crime to the authorities. The reason for this is simple. If your neighbor gets caught and the police find out that you’ve been turning a blind eye to the situation, you could land in hot water. This is especially true if your neighbor is abusing a roommate/parent/friend, or if they are involved in a child endangerment/neglect situation.
Some people don’t realize that their chosen profession requires that they report any criminal activity that they have knowledge of. California created Mandatory Reporting laws that require specific professions to report criminal activity. Professionals who are bound to adhere to the Mandatory Reporting Laws include:
- School officials
- Anyone who works in law enforcement
- Social workers
- Members of the clergy
If you are a member of any of these professions, you’re legally required to report instances of:
- Extreme verbal abuse
- Physical abuse/assault
- Sexual abuse
- Child neglect
- Child endangerment
Failing to obey the Mandatory Reporting Laws means could come at a steep price. If you’re found guilty, you could be sentenced to spending 6 months in a county jail and be charged a $1000 fine.
What if You Discourage Someone From Reporting a Crime?
If someone you know has knowledge of an abuse or child endangerment crime, and you convince them to stay quiet, the law can come after you. If found guilty of willfully preventing someone from stepping up and reporting a crime to the proper authorities, you’re looking at a year in jail and a $5000 fine.
Mandatory Reporting Laws Require that You Think Before you Confide in Someone
If you have broken a law or think you know someone who has, you need to be aware that if you discuss the situation with someone who’s profession forces them to report the alleged crime, they will likely have to mention your name. The police will likely be very curious about why you failed to report the abuse right away. It will look better and not put your friends in an awkward position if you report the situation yourself.