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Misprision of felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanour.[1] It consisted of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities.

Exceptions were made for close family members of the felon.

A person was not obliged to disclose his knowledge of a felony where the disclosure would tend to incriminate him of that offence or another.[2]

With the development of the modern law, this crime has been discarded in most jurisdictions, and is generally only applied against persons placed in a special position of authority or responsibility. For example, corrections officers who stand idly by while drug trafficking occurs within the prison may be prosecuted for this crime.

It has been abolished in England and Wales,[3] in Northern Ireland,[4] in the Republic of Ireland,[5] and in New South Wales.[6]

Contents

United States federal law

"Misprision of felony" is still an offense under United States federal law after being codified in 1909 under 18 U.S.C. § 4:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This offense, however, requires active concealment of a known felony rather than merely failing to report it.[7]

References

  1. ^ Sykes v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1962] A.C. 582
  2. ^ R v. King [1965] 1 All ER 1053
  3. ^ The Criminal Law Act 1967 (c.58), section 1
  4. ^ The Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 (c.18) (N.I.), section 1
  5. ^ The Criminal Law Act 1997 (No.14), section 3
  6. ^ The Crimes Act 1900, section 341 [1]
  7. ^ See United States v. Johnson, 546 F.2d 1225 (5th Cir. 1977) at 1227 ("The mere failure to report a felony is not sufficient to constitute a violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 4."
  • Curenton, The Past, Present, and Future of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4: An Exploration of the Federal Misprision of Felony Statute, (2003) Vol. 55 Alabama Law Review, 183.
  • U.S. Code Online via GPO Access

(wais.access.gpo.gov) United States Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter I, Section 4

Further reading

  • For a discussion of the appellant's defence and the decision in Sykes above, see P.R.Glazebrook, Misprision of Felony - Shadow or Phantom, The American Journal of Legal History, Volume 8, No.3 (July 1964) pp.189 - 208, Temple University JSTOR
  • For a general discussion of this offence from an American viewpoint, see William Lawrence Clark, A Treatise on the Law of Crimes, Hein, 1996, para. 439 pp.679 - 680 [2]

See also








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