In Defense of Duty to Report Crimes

Sungyong Kang, Fordham University School of Law


With the division of labor and interdependency of social activities, the importance of administrative laws and agencies ensuring each profession behaves ethically for common social and economic welfare―crime deterrence―has increased. Thus, the government has introduced laws regulating certain professions and industries to behave ethically : to report crimes encountered in the course of one’s business.

The role of the private sector in crime deterrence has become so essential that laws now compel a wider range of private actors to behave in a more proactive manner, under the threat of stronger penalties. Increasingly, administrative laws require certain private professions and industries even to monitor and detect crimes as well as to report crimes to government authorities. Not only a third party who witnessed the crime, but an individual who could be punished by the crime reported, and a victim harmed by the crime, could be under the obligation to report the crime. Moreover, they could be even criminalized for their omission: failure to report crimes.

However, in current legal academia, normative theory for the duty to report crimes has not kept pace with modern laws and regulations. As crime deterrence continues to rely on the private sector, I expect a growing number of “duty to report” requirements in other professions and industries. Without clear principles, derived from a comprehensive study of duty to report laws and regulations, there is a substantial risk that these laws and regulations will be incoherent and imbalanced, resulting in a more unjust society. My research aims to provide a theoretical framework to enhance our understanding of the laws on duty to report crimes.