Lesson 9: Don’t Cry Wolf, but Always Report a Crime that Affects You

From The Business of Life section of How You Can Avoid Legal Land Mines by Joseph S. Lyles (2003)

Bill’s Case

Bill went to answer a knock at his door. When he opened it, he saw a police officer there.

“I have a warrant for your arrest,” the officer said.

“What for?” asked Bill.

“For writing bad checks,” came the reply.

Bill was stunned because he had never written a bad check, but he found himself on the brink of a legal minefield. Unfortunately, two years before, Bill’s wallet was stolen from his car while it was parked in a rural area where he was swimming. He suspected a particular person, but didn’t bother to report the theft to the authorities.

As it turned out, the thieves had used Bill’s ID to open a checking account. Then they proceeded to write bad checks using his driver’s license. After the checks bounced, it took two years for Bill to be served the warrants because he lived in an adjoining county.

Bill could have languished in jail for a year or more while the government slowly prosecuted each bad check in a different Magistrate’s Court. Fortunately, with the help of legal counsel, Bill was able to take care of all of them at once.

Over the years, I have also been consulted by several different women who were victims of sexual assault, generally unwanted touching or groping. One thing that they all had in common was the failure to report the assaults to the police. In addition, I’ve also talked with numerous female clients about physical abuse by their husbands. And again, very few had ever called the police at the time of the abuse.

Unfortunately for these women, there were rarely any witnesses to these physical or sexual assaults and batteries. Consequently, the civil cases that they wished me to purse always boiled down to a swearing contest, and swearing contests are difficult to win.

The Lesson: You should always report a crime that affects you or someone else. If you are physically injured in any way, go to a doctor or emergency room right away so your injuries will be cared for and documented. Photograph any visible evidence of a crime, including bruises from physical attack. (If you may be a victim of abuse, see Appendix G for suggested resources.)