Ignoring someone in distress could become a crime in Florida

Florida could make some controversial changes to our Good Samaritan law. Under one of the plans, if you do not help or call for help when someone is in distress, you could get charged with a crime. 

The drowning death of 18-year-old Adrian Diaz in September is driving much of the debate. 

Adrian got drunk and was severely impaired -- unable to walk into a bar with his friends. A colleague left him outside the car on a bank of a retention pond.  Then someone else walked by and left him again. 

"He said, ‘Hey, you shouldn't be here.’ He said there are alligators and serpents, this is a danger zone, and Adrian didn't respond. Adrian mumbled and that person left him there,” said Adrian’s grandmother, Diane Hernandez. 

Later that weekend, police found his body in the pond. He likely rolled down the bank and could not get out of the water. 

State Representative John Cortes said that should be a crime -- and it would be, under his expansion of Florida’s Good Samaritan law.

"It brings accountability to the situation, where people go, ‘Wait a minute, if I don’t do this, I could get a misdemeanor. I don’t want that on my record,’” said Representative Cortes, (D) Osceola. 

Diane Hernandez is now leading a social media campaign to get this bill passed. But it’s facing opposition from critics who say it goes too far.  

"’Nobody’s going to force me to help people. I don’t want to do it.’ That’s what they say," said Hernandez. "So that means if somebody makes a mistake, he should die?"

Florida already has a Good Samaritan law. It encourages people to render aid by protecting them from lawsuits. 

Lawmakers from both parties want to get more people to render aid in a crisis. The debate playing out in the legislature is over where to draw the line. 

Senator Jeff Brandes' plan would require you to render aid if you cause an accident that injured somebody, but it would not compel you to assist somebody who's drunk. 

"What I'm going for is fewer deaths," said Senator Brandes, (R) Pinellas. "The question is, if you're at a party and someone gets sick, do you have a duty to render aid? And if you violate that duty, should you be charged with a crime? I would really have to think long and hard about that."

The legislature took up this same debate two years ago after five teens in the East Coast city of Cocoa recorded a disabled man named Jamel Dunn drowning in a pond. The teens mocked him as he died and the state attorney said he could not pursue charges.