Can I Get A Legal Opinion?

Any lawyers out there?

(For the record – I apologize in advance. My brain sometimes goes off on tangents all on its own and I put this bit and that fact and that other trivia together and pretty soon I’m asking some pretty odd questions. This might be one of them.)

I was thinking of a possible story scene and wondering about possible legal ramifications to my protagonist when I remembered a very similar scene set up in a favorite movie (not the greatest copy of the clip, but it gets the idea across):

So, the legal question – if someone were choking to death and you had the capability to Heimlich them and save their life but you know that they’re a real worthless piece of evil shit so you decide to simply watch them die and ignore the fact that you could intervene, what could you be charged with?

I was wondering if it was even a crime. Morally reprehensible, perhaps. An act of omission, no doubt. But an actual crime?

You’re not taking any action which causes the person’s death, you’re simply withholding action which is likely to avoid an imminent crisis and save the person’s life.

Do you have an obligation to step in and attempt to save the evil bastard’s life?

Some quick googling tells me that the difference between murder and manslaughter is intent and premeditation. In this case there may be intent, but there’s no agency other than the withholding of potential assistance.

Related (from my admittedly spotty and hearsay lay person’s understanding of the law) would be if you can be held accountable for your actions if you see a total stranger having a heart attack or a car accident and you’re just a normal person with possibly some rudimentary (hey, I was in the Boy Scouts 50 years ago, I can tie a tourniquet!) first aid training. A doctor, nurse, or paramedic stepping into an emergency like that can be sued for malpractice if they mess up something or make the situation worse, while a non-medical stranger can’t be. Good Samaritan laws, anyone?

That’s sort of the opposite of what I’m asking. I might not be liable if I see a car crash, drag an injured person from the car (as it explodes, just like in the movies) and they end up being paralyzed because of some damage I might (or might not) have done to them in moving them from the car. But if I see the crash, know that I’ve got the time and the means to step in and help, but also know it’s an evil bastard who’s about to die if I withhold that help, am I guilty of a crime for just standing there and watching the line of gasoline run downhill toward the road flare?

Inquiring minds…


Filed under Paul

2 responses to “Can I Get A Legal Opinion?

  1. I suspect it hinges on your ‘duty to help’. Of course, the most important thing is whether you felt you couldn’t help, or whether you deliberately didn’t. Then again, you had no agency in getting him the life or death situation, so….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronnie

    That was an interesting thought process

    Liked by 1 person

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