Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Victims - Distinguishing Victims And Offenders, The Emergence Of Victim Concerns, National Crime Victimization Survey (ncvs)

Victims - Rescuing Victims: Good Samaritans

store laws crime american

The blatant failure of persons to provide help for victims of crime when they might readily do so occasionally thrusts the issue of Good Samaritan laws into the headlines. Such laws, present in virtually all European countries (except England) but found in fewer than a handful of American states, mandate punishment for persons who, when they safely can, do not take action to assist a person being victimized. It would not be a crime in any but a few American states if an Olympic swimmer, sunning himself on the beach, felt too lazy to rescue a drowning infant a few feet away. Nor does anyone need to warn a blind man if he walks by and unknowingly heads toward a steep cliff a few yards away (Geis).

Particular attention focused in 1997 on the paparazzi who snapped pictures after the car-crash death of Princess Diana. Under French law the photographers could be accused of a criminal offense for failing to provide assistance to a person in need. Good Samaritan laws, such as those in France, take their name from the biblical parable of the Samaritan (Luke 10:29–36).

An early New York appellate court decision, Zelenko v. Gimbel Bros. (158 Misc. 904), captures the nature of the American approach to aiding victims in distress. A woman had collapsed in Gimbel's department store and was carried to the store infirmary and left there unattended for several hours. When she died her heirs sued the store and recovered. The court noted that the store and its employees owed the woman "no duty at all" and "could have let her be and die." Had they done so they would have avoided liability. Responsibility came into play only because of the store's "meddling in matters in which legally it had no concern."

The absence in the United States of Good Samaritan statutes is traced to the nation's philosophy of individualism, that nobody should be responsible for anybody but themselves. But there are those who believe that such laws underline the fact that citizens are intertwined and should be compelled to help crime victims if for no other reason than their own future need of such assistance.

Victims - Conclusion [next] [back] Victims - Criminological Theory And Crime Victims

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or