No criminal prosecution will occur in a Florida case involving four teens, and an adult male who drowned as the teens watched, laughed, and filmed his struggles. On July 9 2017, Jamel Dunn screamed for help as he struggled to keep his head above water in a small pond in Cocoa, Florida. Not only did the young onlookers not help, they filmed the tragic situation and mocked Dunn as he took his final breaths.
In the video, which the teens later posted on YouTube, they can be heard mocking and taunting Dunn. “Ain’t nobody gonna help you, you dumb (expletive),” says one, and another laughs, saying, “We just (let) buddy die. We could have helped his (expletive), and we didn’t even try to help him.”
Not a Crime in Florida
According to the Cocoa Police Department, the state of Florida does not have a law requiring individuals to provide help in an emergency. Although such legislation was proposed earlier this year, it didn’t receive necessary support. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.
The boys, ages 14 to 16, admitted to being at the scene of the accident to smoke marijuana. Although they have expressed remorse for their actions—or lack thereof—many are up in arms over the announcement that no charges will be filed. And understandably so.
“I know that everyone was sickened by the callous disregard for human life exhibited by these young people,” said Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Phil Archer. “We can only hope that this was an isolated and rare circumstance that will never happen again. Unfortunately, Florida law does not address this behavior and we are ethically restrained from pursuing criminal charges without a reasonable belief of proving a crime beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.”
Good Samaritan Law
Unfortunately, what Archer says is true. Florida lacks a statute requiring bystanders to provide assistance to a victim. There’s not even a risk of civil liability. There is a law protecting so-called “Good Samaritans” from liability if they accidentally harm someone while providing emergency treatment (which is intended to encourage people to help when they can), but there is no punishment for failing to act.
There is, however, a Florida law that requires individuals to report a known death to the medical examiner. According to reports, the State Attorney’s Office considered charges for violation of this law, but “could not find any similar incident in which this law was used for this purpose and we do not believe it would be appropriately applied under the facts of this case.”
Following the drowning, Florida Senator Debbie Mayfield proposed a bill that would make the failure to help someone in grave danger a crime. The bill didn’t pass.
Is it a Crime in MA?
In Massachusetts, failing to be a Good Samaritan can, indeed, carry criminal consequences. Here, it is every person’s duty to provide reasonable care to prevent harm to another. Basically, if you see someone need, and you are able to help, you are required to do so. Of course, there are certain defenses to such charges, the most likely being that you would have likely died in the attempt to save the person. In the drowning death of Jamel Dunn, however, that was far from the case. A MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense. Continue reading