Moral vs. Legal obligations

Recently, a group of Florida teens videoed a man who drowned.  CNN has a great timeline of the situation here.  The teens were heard laughing and teasing the man on the video, and none of them rendered help once the man started to struggle in the water.  I have been asked why the teens are not being charged for NOT helping the man.  It is simple really, with a few exceptions there is no legal obligation to help someone in danger.  The exceptions are usually reserved for those in a special relationship, meaning a police officer, life guard, paramedic, someone with a special skill that could help, or a close family member (ex. mother protecting child), etc.  Some states do have a law that says you have to help, but that help could be calling 911 and does not require you to jump in and save a drowning man.

The biggest issue people have to realize is that moral and ethical obligations, or doing the right thing, is not the same as a legal obligation.  What you might see as the morally correct thing to does not mean you legally have to do it.  Each states have their own laws and you should consult a local attorney if you have questions about the laws in your state.  If you wish to change the law you need to talk to your state legislature.

If you need legal advice please speak to an attorney in your state. This commentary does not advocate or recommend any action or inaction by anyone reading this.


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