Jones v. United States
308 F.2d 307 (1962)
- Jones was caring for Green's
baby. Jones failed to take care of the baby and it died. Jones was
arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
- There was some debate as to
whether Green was paying Jones to care for the baby.
- The Trial Court found Jones
guilty. She appealed.
- Jones argued that in order
to be found guilty of a crime, the person must make an intentional act. In this case, Jones didn't act at all. She
only made an omission.
- The Appellate Court reversed.
- The Appellate court found
that there are four situations where the failure to act may constitute a
breach of legal duty:
- Where a Statute imposes a duty
- Where one stands in a
certain status relationship to another (like being a child's mother).
- Where one has assumed a
contractual duty to care for another.
- Where you have voluntarily
assumed the care of another and so secluded the helpless person as to
prevent others from rendering aid.
- In this case, the Appellate
court found that the jury was not instructed that they must find beyond a
reasonable doubt that Jones had a legal duty to care.
- The duty to care, must be a legal duty, and not just a moral
obligation. This is similar to the tort law concept of nonfeasance.
- Model Penal Code §2.01(3) says that liability for omission only occurs
when "a duty to perform the omitted act is otherwise imposed by