You’ve seen a crime happen. Now you’re in a bind. Are you legally required to report the crime? Who should you report the crime to? How do you even go about reporting a crime? How long do you have to report the crime? It’s amazing how much stress simply being an innocent bystander can cause.
Are You Legally Required to Report a Crime?
The answer to whether you’re legally required to report a crime is both yes and no.
In most cases, the State of California is happy to let you decide whether you should report the crime. Failure to do so probably won’t get you into legal trouble but there are some exceptions.
The exceptions include:
- Child Abuse
In the case of severe crimes that the state feels you’re legally required to report, failure to do so will result in you being charged with aiding and abetting.
Who Do You Report a Crime To?
When you know about a crime and want to report it, you need to contact your local police station. You can do this in person or via a phone call. People at the police station will provide you with additional information that includes the exact officer you should speak to, what type of details they need to know, and if they’ll have follow-up questions.
In the case of extremely serious crimes, crimes that require immediate medical attention, or crimes that are in progress, you should call 911.
How to Report a Crime
The best way to report a crime is by staying calm, cool, and collected. While reporting the crime stick to just the details, and resist the urge to start sharing your opinions and thoughts about the situation. At this stage, plain facts are the only thing the police require.
Pay attention to the questions the person you’re speaking asks and answer them honestly. If you don’t know the answer, make that clear.
How Long Should You Wait to Report a Crime
The general rule of thumb is that you should report a crime as quickly as possible. Not only does this alert the authorities and allow them to take immediate and appropriate action, but it also allows you to share the details of the case while your memory is still sharp. Waiting even a few hours can drastically impact your ability to recall exactly what you saw and experienced.