Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Utah House Votes Down Bill That Would've Sanctioned Bystanders Who Don't Call 911

Julia Ritchey
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, argues for his bill during House floor time on Feb. 12.

A bill that would have stiffened penalties for people who fail to call 911 in an emergency failed in the House on Monday after a lengthy debate.

House Minority Leader Brian King called H.B. 125 “extraordinarily topical.” He said there are news reports nearly every day in which bystanders fail to do the right thing. For instance, not reporting serial predators to authorities — such as the recent case of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexually abusing 150 female athletes.

“Certainly someone in the decades that this was going on knew or had good reason to know he was inflicting bodily injury on these young athletes that he was dealing with," he said. "They should have, could have stepped up earlier and dealt with this situation —  that’s what we want to encourage in this state.”

His bill would have made it a class B misdemeanor for a person who fails to assist in a crime or emergency.  

But several lawmakers expressed reservations during floor debate. Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, a practicing lawyer, said the bill was a significant departure from existing law.

“Our criminal law should not stretch and reach so far as to impose criminal penalties for not being a good person.”


"This seems like the reverse [of Good Samaritan laws]," said Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Sandy, also in opposition. "It seems like mandatory Good Samaritan with criminal consequences." 

The House voted 51-20 against moving forward on the legislation.


KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.