If you live in a large city, chances are you encounter dozens of people every day. Most of the time, they’ll just pass by without having to give them a second thought, but occasionally you’ll be a witness to criminal activity or an accident where you may be called as a witness in court. If this happens to you, and you’re unsure what to do, follow these 3 tips for what to do when you’ve witnessed a crime.
Keep in mind your rights
For the most part you are not legally required to report a crime you’ve witnessed unless you’re in a field that has separate mandates (like a teacher or medical professional that feels they’re a witness to child abuse). Morally and ethically reporting or not reporting a crime is a gray area, but if you feel unsafe or unable to do so at the time of the crime, you may decide to report it at a later time or not at all.
If you decide to report the crime, call 911 and give any relevant facts you can about the crime. You may also do this anonymously if you want, and are not obligated to give any personal information. The responders will want as much information as possible, so try your best to give them facts that may be helpful for the emergency responders (such as who, what, where, and when). Whatever information you give the 911 responder, make sure it’s as factually accurate as possible, as giving incorrect or false information can be grounds for charging you with creating a false police report.
Contact your lawyer
When you’ve witnessed a crime you may be asked to give further information about what you’ve seen and any other pertinent information that the authorities may feel they need. If you’re asked to give a witness statement or testimony, contact your lawyer for best advice before making any statements to police. While you may want to be as cooperative as possible, especially if you weren’t involved in the criminal activity, it’s in your best interest to have your lawyer present at all times.
If you haven’t witnessed a crime, but are still contacted by authorities that are investigating a crime, we’ve also written a great article about that, so follow these steps and make sure you know your rights before heading down to the station to give testimony. Whether you’ve witnessed a crime or are suddenly contacted by authorities to assist with details of a crime, follow these 3 steps as a general rule of thumb and make sure to consult your attorney ahead of time and you’ll be sure that you’re cooperating to the best of your ability in a way that protects your interests, as well.