There ought to be a law against adding something to the penal code without at the same time removing something else. Each year, the list of ways in which we can err and become a ward of the state grows longer and longer. Is it any wonder that the United States tops the list of industrialized nations in terms of incarceration rates?
Connecticut is toying with a new law. This one requires folks to report serious crimes when they see them. Failure to do so would become a Class A misdemeanor subjecting a person to up to one year in prison.
This compulsory good citizenship is not applicable to all witnesses of all crimes. An Act Concerning the Failure of a Witness to Report a Serious Crime applies only to murder, assault, sexual assault and physical abuse of a child. Affirmative defenses include a reasonable belief that reporting the crime exposes a defendant to substantial risk of physical injury and a reasonable belief that someone else has already reported the crime.
This new law is really a club to be wielded by prosecutors against reluctant witnesses. Don't want to testify? Fine, go to prison instead. When moral suasion fails then lock 'em up.
Creating a legal duty to step forth as a witness opens a new chapter in overcriminalization. Shots fired in a crowded room? Charge every person in the room with failing to report a crime. But that's unreasonable, you say. Charge 'em all and let the jury sort them out. If you thought the law of conspiracy was formless, just wait until this one hits the books. We're all criminals now.
It is offensive in the extreme to legislate a duty to communicate with the state. The state is a necessary legal fiction. This compulsory requirement to report crimes feels alot like a church confessional. And what priests will dispense forgiveness? Why cops and prosecutors, of course.
Do lawmakers think before they cook up this swill? I predict the bill will pass and then the battle will turn to the courts to kill this fungal obscenity.