When we think of people committing a crime we usually assume that the person did something. Attempted murder, what are the first things that you think about when you read those words? Most of us would think of a person who actually took several steps to try to kill another person. From our media and Hollywood driven minds we might envision a suspect with black gloves, armed with a weapon that stabs or shoots another person. How many of us would think of a mother not taking care of her child?
Most criminal charges stem from affirmative actions, meaning the person took steps to do something. In certain situations, a person can be charged for not taking steps to prevent harm. This is a very interesting line of criminal cases because it almost contradicts our thoughts of the system. One of the basic ideas of the system is to punish those who wrong others, or society as a whole. The system also values freedom, and doesn’t require normal civilians to help, and save others. People are not punished for not running into a burning building to save people, not running into the ocean to save a drowning person, or not running to call 911 when a person is injured.
However, there are certain situations where a person can be charged for not doing something. In those cases, there usually needs to be some duty owed to the person ultimately harmed. You see this with animal cruelty cases, where people can be charged for not taking care of their animals. A person doesn’t have to do anything affirmatively like hit or actively harm the animal. A person can be charged with animal cruelty if the animal is not given food, shelter, or other proper treatment.
Photo take by Ian Britton: http://www.ianbritton.co.uk/
Finally, the Boston Globe recently reported that Kristen LaBrie was charged with attempted murder and child endangerment. The prosecution brought the charges after she cancelled doctor appointments, and did not fill prescriptions for her son who had cancer. In the end, Ms. LaBrie’s son who also was autistic died. Ms. LaBrie’s attorney claimed that this was done due to financial hardship, but the judge still held her on $15,000 cash bail.
It will be interesting to see the punishment that Ms. LaBrie ends up facing, and the course these types of cases will lead. For now, remember that you can be charged or convicted of committing a crime, for not doing anything.
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