I read on https://www.cbsnews.com/news/philadephia-septa-train-rain-bystanders-shouldve-intervented-police-say/:

A woman was allegedly raped on a suburban Philadelphia train last week while police said there were "a lot of people" around who "should have done something."

Must bystanders do anything if they witness an ongoing rape in Pennsylvania, United States?

https://apnews.com/article/0e270aea414d4c47ba1e3527955158ac mentions it depends on the state:

There is no all-encompassing legal obligation in the United States that a bystander who sees an act of violence must intervene or call police. But there are exceptions to that idea, dubbed the no-duty rule. Many states have laws requiring intervention when the victim of an ongoing attack is a child. The relationship of the witness to the victim is also a factor in assessing criminal or civil liability: Bosses may have a duty to intervene on behalf of employees, teachers for students and spouses for spouses.


1 Answer 1


In the US, there is no general legal duty to aid. Certain states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington – about 10 states) have imposed such a duty. Otherwise, duty arises only because you have caused the peril, or because you have certain pre-existing relations with the person. Pennsylvania does have a duty to assist law, applicable to drivers of vehicles involved in an accident that results in injury or death (involved in, not just caused). PA also has a Good Samaritan law which relieves a person of liability for a good faith rendering of assistance, which does not otherwise impose a positive duty on individuals.

  • While I agree with this answer, I do think there is a case to be made that the Fifth amendment gives you no duty to report any crime nor even admit you were in the same area as a crime.
    – A. K.
    Oct 21, 2021 at 1:11
  • @A.K., only if reporting the crime and/or admitting you were in the same area as the crime would tend to incriminate you. The Fifth Amendment is not a blanket "right to remain silent".
    – Mark
    Oct 22, 2021 at 18:28
  • @mark yes it is. It does not need to be directly incriminating. Something as simple as admitting you were in the area could get you pinched and that is enough for the fifth amendment to be in effect. It’s for the innocent as much ias it is for the guilty.
    – A. K.
    Oct 29, 2021 at 2:29

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