When it comes to the definition of a criminal act, many people are likely to associate it with specific decisions that cause instant harm to property or individuals or have negative long-term consequences. However, in some cases, the failure to take action is also a criminal offense. Punishable omissions are inextricably connected with the presence of legal duties, and they vary based on the character of necessary actions that are omitted.
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Omission is a Criminal Act
From moral considerations, fellow citizens are expected to help each other in difficult situations that involve threats to people’s life and health. The gap between being obliged and recommended to take some actions becomes obvious when it comes to criminal omissions. The failure to do something to prevent dangerous crimes or save a person who needs help does not always qualify as an omission since there is a significant difference between moral and legal obligations.
An omission can be regarded as a criminal offense if a person does not react to some situation in a manner required by the law. There are two types of criminal omissions that are dissimilar in terms of their consequences (Samaha, 2017). The first type, the failure to act, involves the lack of actions that can raise awareness about certain crimes and reduce their negative effects (Samaha, 2017). As for the failure to intervene, this term is used to define the inability to take direct actions helping to prevent bodily harm or damage to property (Samaha, 2017). Both types present an interesting research topic since the degree to which they apply to individuals depends on people’s professional duties and other factors.
The failure to act is an offense that can take a variety of forms. The inability to report some criminal acts is among the most common causes related to it (Samaha, 2017). Not all citizens are required to make interventions and take direct actions to stop criminals. However, it is commonly accepted that a person should at least report a crime if he or she knows something or becomes an eyewitness of some illegal acts (Samaha, 2017). As an example, a social worker who knows about a case of child abuse or rape and fails to report it can be subject to punishment since he or she is obliged to protect children’s interests. As for some real-life cases, in 2017, four members of school staff in Marion County were punished for not reporting one student’s complaint about armed threats because of the child’s mental status (Lopardi, 2017). Thus, the inability to provide information about actual or suspected crimes is an important question when it comes to specialists working with people who have no legal capacity.
Speaking about the failure to intervene, this type of criminal omission is often interconnected with specific duties in some professional fields. It occurs when people fail to take actions related to their field of responsibility, thus neglecting their legal duties (Samaha, 2017). Also, the unwillingness to provide necessary help is considered as a criminal omission when there are special links between an affected person and an individual refusing to take action. The links refer to the presence of close familial relationships between children and parents or spouses (Samaha, 2017). Such offenses may also include doctors, police officers, rescue teams’, or transportation companies’ failure to perform actions to provide the safety of their clients.
To sum it up, due to their potential consequences, omissions present an important topic in the field of criminal law. An omission is regarded as a criminal offense if a person fails to fulfill his or her legal responsibilities that exist because of professional duties or the obligation to ensure the safety of one’s spouse or children. Criminal omissions can be presented by the lack of actions to report some important data or take necessary actions in emergency cases.
Lopardi, M. (2017). Marion County elementary school staffers punished for not reporting alleged abuse, district says. WFTV9. Web.
Samaha, J. (2017). Criminal law (12th ed.). Boston. MA: Cengage Learning.