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Should You Report a Crime You See on Social Media?

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Most people think that criminal attempt to be covert, but this is not always the case. Live features on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media websites allow criminals to live stream the acts they commit.

In the past, people have committed all sorts of crimes that they streamed for a live audience, ranging from assault to murder. Some watched in horror, while others doubted the event was real at all. Regardless, these people watching the video without reporting the incident to the police might also have been committing a crime.

Police officers can't be everywhere, and they often rely on information from the public to resolve real crimes. When you don't report a crime you witnessed, even on social media, a real victim could be out there waiting for help. Keep reading to see how Texas handles these cases.

The Duty to Report a Crime

While many states do not have laws requiring individuals to report crimes they witness, Texas establishes a legal duty to report felonies to the police. The area of online crimes feels a bit like a gray area, especially because you might not feel like an eyewitness simply by watching a video.

Failure to report a felony seen on social media is a Class A misdemeanor. Felonies are crimes involving bodily injury or potential death, and the perpetrators can spend years in prison for committing felonies.

For example, if you see someone on social media attack another person with a weapon, you have a reasonable belief that this man has caused bodily injury to the victim and perhaps even caused the death of another person.

A Class A misdemeanor comes with up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. The judge has the discretion to determine what kind of punishment your case may deserve. Some people may get by with probation.

Not reporting a misdemeanor is not a crime, however. For example, you will not be charged with a crime if you saw evidence of somebody shoplifting a tube of lipstick in a video. You may still choose to report what you have found, but you are not under any official obligation to do so according to Texas law.
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The Defense Against Failing to Report

The first thing you should do upon being charged with any crime, including failure to report, is to hire a criminal defense attorney. A strong attorney will defend your rights in court and provide evidence you committed no wrongdoing.

One defense you have against a failure to report charge is the belief that reporting the crime would put you in danger. Perhaps you felt that somebody would threaten your life if you were to go to the police with any information.

You may also demonstrate that you intended to call the police but had no opportunity to do so. This defense becomes more difficult to use if you were using your phone to view the content, but you may be able to prove you had a low battery or no cell phone service.

Another defense could be that another person reported the crime, so there was no need for you to report it as well.

Finally, you might claim you did not know that what you witnessed was a crime. You might have thought you were watching a prank video or a video involving actors, for instance.

Have you been accused of witnessing a crime and failing to report it? You need legal assistance to combat these charges. Call Joe D. Gonzales & Associates to learn more about Texas laws and legal options. We can help you with any charges you face.