Good Samaritan Laws in a Stranger Danger Society

Via Radley Balko comes the news story of a father of three who, so he claims, attempted to be a good samaritan and offer two teenage girls caught out walking in a snowstorm without protection a lift home only to be charged with disorderly conduct for his trouble. The girls, you see, were “alarmed and disturbed” by the offer. They waved him off and, like good citizens, did as they were taught in public school — they wrote down his license plate number and reported him to the “authorities.”

Now, we don’t know what really happened. It’s a he-said/she-said situation in which no one was harmed, which makes charging the alleged good samaritan with a crime all the more ridiculous. Maybe the guy really did have bad intentions in this case, though I doubt it; but it hardly matters for our general point because more clearcut cases can surely be found to illustrate how our culture and the US legal system discourage and punish good samaritans.

This is a likely tragic example of the state’s corrosive effects on society as it breaks down social bonds, foments fear and distrust of strangers and even friends and family, encourages snitching and dependence on its protection and support, and punishes good samaritans. In America, the state can let no private good deed go unpunished.

Those who favor laws requiring people to be good samaritans should bear incidents like this in mind. You’re setting people up to be criminals no matter what they do or don’t do, and you’re employing the very institution responsible for creating the conditions that led you to perceive a need for such laws in the first place.

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  • So this guy did nothing but offer a ride? He didn’t grab one of them and attempt to force them into a car nor just follow them down the road? I used to walk all the time and occasionally get offered rides, but I would never have thought to report someone who left me alone after I said no. I understand times are a little different, but still. And we wonder why people don’t want to help one another anymore. It is actions like those of these girls.