Is it a Crime to Not Report a Crime?

May 23, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Failure to report a felony is rarely charged — but it is a crime.  What is more commonly charged is failure to report the abuse or neglect of a child.

When we do see these types of charges, it is often because law enforcement suspects far worse but simply can’t prove anything… or it is often a reduced charge the prosecutors and defense lawyers settle on for a plea negotiation.

Texas Law:

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 38.171 requires the felony to be one which (1) the person observed; (2) it is likely serious bodily injury or death may have occurred; (3) It’s reasonable to think no one else has reported it; and (4) the person can make the report themselves if it doesn’t place them in danger.

— and if this crazy offense does occur, it is a Class A misdemeanor.

Federal Law:

The Federal Law is called Misprision of a Felony.  It is much broader in that there only be “knowledge” of the felony.  A major difference is under Federal law, the accused must take an affirmative step in assisting concealment of the felony… in essence making them an accessory.

Keep a few things in mind about failure to report crimes and they start making sense for why we see them so rarely:

Police Want the Real Offender

They want the perpetrator of the crime someone knows about more than anything else.  If police had to round up and prosecute people who knew they think knew about certain crimes but didn’t report — it would make their work load go crazy.

“Failure to Report” cases are really hard to prove.

How do you go about proving someone “knew” about something…?  You’d almost think they’d have to witness it themselves?

Also consider that someone might have some information a crime was committed — but not enough information to truly assist police.

The statutes take these things into consideration which is why they are so narrow.  The gist of these laws is police want and need help in serious situations… not to round everyone up who knows something.

Law Enforcement Usually Understand’s You’re in a Tough Spot Too

Police are people too and they might understand the witness or person is in a tough spot to do something.  Many crimes take planning and a series of bad decisions.  Witnesses to crimes normally don’t choose to be witnesses and they often have to make decisions on the spot.

I can see police threatening people with this charge to get them to talk about solving the underlying crime… but again, remember the cops want the REAL bad guy more than anything.

Failure to Report Abuse or Neglect of a Child or failure to report Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child is a bit of a different story.  I’ll write about that in another blog.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.



How Can I get a Police Report After I was Arrested?

February 12, 2010

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Texas law makes it tougher than you might think to see your own police report.  Believe it or not it could be the middle of trial before you’re allowed to see it!

But don’t worry, in Texas state courts it rarely, if ever, happens that way regardless if it’s DWI, theft, assault, drugs or whatever.

The Michael Morton Discovery Act passed taking effect for cases filed after January 1, 2014 require the prosecutors to give your lawyer a police report upon request, though, there are limitations on to whom your lawyer can disclose the report.  You can read more about those changes here.

Two quick points — lawyers look at police reports the same way doctors look at x-rays.  We key in on things you may not notice because they’ll have legal significance.  If you don’t already have a lawyer — consider one.  Second, this discussion isn’t for traffic tickets and municipal fines in Texas though some of the same rules may apply.

Police departments don’t have to give you the report in a criminal case unlike a civil car accident.  Texas Government Code 522.108 is an exception to the Texas Public Information Act for law enforcement in criminal matters.

Many prosecuting agencies like Dallas and Ft. Worth and Collin County currently have “open file” policies meaning the defense attorney has access to the entire file.

And you do have rights in all this.  The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 39.14 provides that if you show “good cause” to the Court, the Court can order the prosecution to produce a whole laundry list of items from their file prior to trial.  The prosecutor has legal and ethical duties to produce favorable evidence to you.  Brady is generally any evidence which is exculpatory (proves innocence) or which is favorable to the defendant — though the issue is complex.

Again, without legal training and experience as a legal practitioner — getting your hands on a police report can be useless.  If the case is serious enough for you to want a police report, it’s probably serious enough for you to get a lawyer!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice you should consult an attorney.