Blog

Untrue Viral Story Inspires PA Lawmaker to Introduce “Duty to Assist” Law

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 10, 2021 | 0 Comments

It's been said a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. Case in point: On October 13, 2021, a woman was raped over a 40-minute period on a sparsely populated, late-night commuter train near Philadelphia.

An official from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority initially reported that passengers recorded the rape on their cell phones but failed to intervene or report it.

That story went viral. The community was outraged.

The Only Problem is …

The story was not true. A rape did happen, and a suspect is in custody. However, surveillance cameras showed that the few passengers who got on or off the train that night did not record the incident, much less intervene in it. In fact, they might not have even been aware of it. The incident is still under investigation.

With the exception of a parent's duty to protect a child, Pennsylvania law does not require citizen bystanders to a crime to intervene or report. Nor does it impose any form of penalty for failing to intervene or report.

That might change.

“Duty to Assist” Legislation Is Under Consideration

Although the viral story later proved to be untrue, State Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny County) released a co-sponsorship memorandum asking senate colleagues to join him in introducing “duty to assist” legislation.

Brewster said a constituent informed him of a Minnesota “Good Samaritan” law that requires bystanders to provide “reasonable assistance” as long as the bystander can do so “without danger or peril to self or others.” The law further guarantees “general immunity from liability” for rendering good-faith assistance. At a minimum, the Minnesota law requires bystanders to report a crime or incident that exposes or causes “grave physical harm” to another person.

Brewster's memorandum said his proposed legislation would impose

“an affirmative duty on any person to provide reasonable assistance to another person who is subject to serious physical harm.” 

The memorandum further states, “This legislation will require, at a minimum, that a person contact emergency response personnel when they see another person who has suffered physical harm at the scene of an accident or a crime.”

As of November 8, 2021, Brewster had not introduced actual duty-to-assist legislation.

Civil Immunity for Good Faith Action

Pennsylvania does already provide “criminal victim aid Good Samaritan civil immunity” to anyone who provides, obtains, or attempts to assist a victim of criminal, personal injury. Of course, the law does not excuse acts of intentional harm, reckless conduct, or gross negligence.

Defense Against Criminal Liability

In many accidents, a person, business, or government is responsible for the mishap in whole or in part. The legal term is “joint and several liability.”

If Brewster's proposed legislation is enacted, failure to respond to the affirmative duty to assist might be charged as a misdemeanor offense. Furthermore, anyone accused of criminal negligence or intention to do harm in an accident will need aggressive legal representation. Experienced criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will fight to protect your rights. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

footer-2.jpg

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

Menu