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Teens May Face Charges in Man's Drowning Death

In early July, a Florida man entered a pond in Brevard County and drowned. Standing nearby was a group of five teens that recorded the entire incident on video. Instead of seek help for the man, who they taunted and cursed at while he struggled in the water, the teens simply let him drown without calling for help or trying to assist the man. Additionally, the teens did not report the incident to authorities, but they did post the video of the death on social media. While the victim's family was filing a missing persons report, unsure of where their loved one was at the time, the teens showed no remorse as witnesses to a drowning. The body of the man was located a few days later, and police were able to link the teens' video to the man's death.

Illegal vs. Unethical

In this case, the teens were not acting illegally. In the state of Florida, there is no current law that requires people to render aid in a situation where someone is at risk of serious harm or death. It can be argued that the teens were acting in an extremely unethical way to not only watch a man die in front of them, but to make commentary on the event and use lewd language on top of that. It can be said that these teens were irresponsible, neglectful, and disregarded human life, but they did not violate a law by not helping to save the man.

Potential Charges against Teens

Because of the seriousness of this case in which a man died while being watched by a group of people, police in Brevard County have asked the State Attorney's office to file criminal charges against the teens, who range in age between 14 and 16. The requested charges fall under a state statutes that deals with the requirement to report a death under certain circumstances. Referred to as the "medical examiners statute," this law requires someone to report a death from criminal violence, accident, suicide, or "in any suspicious or unusual circumstance." Anyone who witnesses a death has a duty to report it, which is something these teens failed to do.

Good Samaritan Laws and Proposed Legislation

Florida does have Good Samaritan laws in place, which provide basic legal protection for anyone who tries to render aid to someone who is injured or in danger. These laws protect someone who acts in a reasonable manner to save someone else from liability or being sued by the injured party. However, there is not a law in the state of Florida that requires you to save someone who is in danger. In this particular case, the teens knew the man was going to die; yet they did not even call for emergency or medical professionals to come to the scene.

In the wake of this unfortunate incident, many state legislators are calling for legislation to compel bystanders to provide reasonable assistance if they are in the presence of someone who they know is suffering grave physical harm. Florida lawmakers want to ensure that the legislation includes language that protects the safety of the person rendering aid as well, not compelling him or her to act in a situation that would cause harm or danger to him or herself. Help in this type of situation could mean simply calling for emergency or medical personnel, or invoking Good Samaritan-type reasonable aid.

If you are accused of a crime in the state of Florida, it's very important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you understand the charges brought against you, and may be able to lessen the charges or punishment.

References:

Today, D. B. (n.d.). Florida seeks 'Good Samaritan' legislation after drowning captured on video. Retrieved August 08, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/07/florida-seeks-good-samaritan-legislation/544907001/

Park, M., & Valencia, N. (2017, July 27). Police recommend charges for teens who taunted drowning man. Retrieved August 08, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/26/us/florida-teens-charges-drowning-man/index.html

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