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Utah House rejects bill making it a crime for failing to call 911 during assault, injury accident

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House overwhelmingly rejected a bill Monday that would have made it a crime for a witness to an assault or situation in which someone is hurt to fail to call 911.

HB125 obligated people to call the emergency line or face being charged with a class B misdemeanor. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, called it a tool for prosecutors to deal with "callous indifference."

"The effect of the bill is to save lives," said King, who sponsored the measure.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, argued against that and said the legislation is a "drastic departure from criminal law before lawmakers voted it down 51-20. The law, he said, focuses on action and intent, not inaction.

"We are saying you’re a criminal if you do nothing," he said.

Rep. Kelly Miles, R-Ogden, said he likes the idea of sending a message that people should step up, but the state doesn't need a law with a penalty to do that.

"I don’t like the idea of legislating goodness," he said.

King said Utah already has a law requiring people to report abuse of children and vulnerable adults. He said his bill is a "modest" extension of that law.

Though it doesn't specifically target domestic violence, he said the law would tell abusers and predators that their actions would be reported.

"We need to ferret those individuals out sooner not later," King said.