I was having a conversation with our Chief of Police regarding their obligation to respond to a request for assistance.

If a statute has no corresponding penalty is it considered merely guidance?

  • Do you have a particular statute in mind? – phoog Sep 29 '16 at 20:57
  • This question generated a tangential question as to statutes in general. If a statute has no associated penalty specified then the statute, in effect, becomes merely guidance. Seem reasonable? – gordon Sep 30 '16 at 18:11
  • Yes it seems reasonable, but I have no idea whether it is a true statement or not. One such statute I'm aware of is 8 USC 1185 (b), which requires US citizens (generally) to "bear a valid US passport" when entering or leaving the US. There was a penalty that was repealed in the 70s. Whether it can be said that the statute is (since then) "merely guidance" or whether saying that has any particular meaning, I do not know. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 18:16
  • Here is the particular statute that triggered the question for me. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 2.13 outlines the duties for an officer but specifies no penalty for a general failure to perform. Subsequent articles do specify penalties for specific failures to perform. I suspect that, barring a statutory penalty, it is an employee/employer issue. – gordon Sep 30 '16 at 18:30
  • Article 2.13 doesn't appear to create an obligation to respond to a request for assistance. – phoog Sep 30 '16 at 18:36

theres no general obligation, but if they discriminate between requests, the basis of their discrimination can make that a violation of law. e.g., theres no obligation to investigate every call, but there is an obligation not to refuse to investigate a call on the basis of race.


Police do not have an obligation to attend any particular call or investigate any particular alleged crime. They are entitled to exercise discretion and allocate resources as they see fit. There is plenty of case law on this.

If there are systematic failures then that means they are not doing a good job and they can be censured by their employer- they cannot be sued.

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