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Is It Illegal to Not Report a Crime?

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A large number of crimes are brought to the attention of law enforcement when they are reported by members of the public. The police can’t be everywhere at all times. They often rely on reports from individuals who witnessed crimes or discovered crimes after the fact.

In some states, failing to report certain crimes is actually a criminal offense. For example, it is against the law in Texas to fail to report a felony crime. This means that if a person witnesses a felony in progress and decides not to notify the police, that person may be subject to prosecution. 

Mandatory Reporting of Crimes

By law, only certain crimes must be reported. In Texas, felony crimes that can result in serious bodily injury or death must be reported to law enforcement. For example, if a passerby notices one person assaulting another person with a deadly weapon, that person is required by law to call the police.


It is not realistic or practical for law enforcement to demand immediate felony reporting in all cases. For this reason, there are certain exceptions to this law that can exempt someone from prosecution if they fail to report a felony. Under the law, someone is required to report a felony only if:

  • A reasonable person would be expected to know a crime was taking place
  • Reporting the crime will not endanger the witness
  • No one else reports the crime

For example, if a person witnesses a violent assault and is then threatened by the assailant and told to keep quiet, they would not be expected to immediately report the crime. Also, if a person witnesses a crime and clearly sees several other people calling the police on their cell phones, that person wouldn’t be required to report the crime.

Penalties for Failure to Report a Felony

The legal penalties for failure to report a felony crime can be serious. By punishing those who fail to report felonies, law enforcement departments are trying to get people to take an active role in crime prevention. Some penalties include:

Legal Defenses

In order to get a conviction, the state must prove that a defendant knowingly avoided reporting a crime. This means that the state must provide evidence to show that the defendant did not meet one of the exceptions mentioned above.

A defense attorney could argue that the defendant could not reasonably be expected to know that a felony crime took place. For example, the defense might argue that the prosecution has no way of proving that the defendant actually witnessed the crime as it happened.

Failure to report a felony could land you in jail. In order to avoid this, you will need to hire an experienced attorney who understands the criminal justice system. Let Brett A. Podolsky help you today. Just call 713.227.0087.

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