What do you do when you find out a friend is participating in something illegal? Do you ditch the friend? Are you now an accessory to a crime if you know something and don’t report it? Would love some advice. Thanks! Comment by Subversive — August 11, 2007 @ 3:56 am
Wow. My first question for advice. And its a doozy.
So I guess I’ll start by saying you have to distinguish between morals and laws.
Laws are made by men. Usually privileged men with a different set of values than the common person. So the answer to this question lies within your own set of values. And I don’t mean moral as a fixed point on a compass (like laws), but more personally. How does it make you feel, deep down? What is that tiny voice (you know, the one you never listen to…) saying?
The first question is, “Do you believe what your friend is doing is immoral?”
Resistance to unjust laws is as old as laws themselves. I tend to use the fairly libertarian guideline of: No Brakes, No Foul
Say I’m driving down the road, and another car pulls out in front of me. If said car can accelerate fast enough so I do not have to use my brakes, then I give them a pass. If I must apply pressure to my brake pedal, they incur my wrath, which usually involves chocolate sprinkles and camel dung.
Not really, but if it causes no harm to another, then why worry about it?
An alternate first question would involve the Golden Rule. You know, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done Unto You. Put yourself in the other’s shoes, and I don’t mean your friend’s. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of the crime and someone knew and wasn’t telling?
On the other hand, if it does morally offend you (Rape, Murder, and Molestation top my list of unpardonables) the you are obligated to let someone know. The guilt that you will have to carry around knowing what you know is not worth it.
But lets say it is something in the gray area: embezzlement from large corporations, insurance fraud, tax evasion , etc…
Now you have to ask yourself both the first question, and the second question: “How well do I know this person.” Combine the amount of moral outrage you feel about the illegal activity with what you know about this person. The answer should not be easy, but fairly obvious.
As far as being an accessory: You are an accessory if you know something and don’t report it (in the eyes of the law). So this may help you decide if the secret is worth keeping. I personally don’t think this should change the above two questions. Either it is worth it to bear your friend’s secret, or it isn’t.
As an aside, so often the hardest path is the correct one. Don’t be afraid to make the correct decision for you soul, heart and mind. In the long run, it will be worth the effort.