Bad Samaritan laws impose a duty to help victims of sex trafficking by notifying authorities or by direct intervention, or both. These impositions are defined as “duty to report” and “duty to rescue” respectively. States began considering legislation to create these legal duties after it became clear that victims of sex trafficking were suffering in silence while their trafficker walked free.
Duty to Report and Duty to Rescue
Bad Samaritans are witnesses who refuse or fail to notify relevant authorities after witnessing at least one incident of sex trafficking. Witnesses may include law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, social service employees, and upstanding citizens. If they fail to act by reporting the abuse or attempting to rescue the victim, they are guilty of violating their state’s Bad Samaritan law.
Duty to Report
A duty to report requires anyone aware of an instance of a sex crime or human trafficking to notify the relevant authorities. He or she should then remain available and willing to cooperate with the ensuing investigation. Failure to fulfill one’s duty to report is a misdemeanor in most states and a felony in others.
Anyone charged with a failure to report may search for criminal defense lawyers for aggressive legal representation. A criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with state-specific Bad Samaritan laws can assemble sufficient evidence and present strong arguments to convince the court to drop the failure to report charges.
Duty to Rescue
A duty to rescue is the obligation of a person, such as a rescuer, who learns of an instance of human trafficking to take some sort of action. A “rescuer” is any person who through telephone or digital wireless communications aids or encourages an individual or attempts to aid or encourage an individual who is a victim of severe forms of trafficking in person. Failure to fulfill the duty to rescue may attract felony charges and imprisonment, depending on the state.
Where Do Bad Samaritan Laws Exist?
Some professionals throughout the United States have a legal duty to report injustices meted out to vulnerable populations or some injuries suffered by any person. Health care providers, for example, must report abuse and injuries to children and elderly persons from a variety of violent acts, including stabs and gunshots. A total of have 13 states have Bad Samaritan laws; California, Washington, Alaska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, Vermont, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, and Minnesota.