Good Samaritan Laws Protect Woman from Charges After Good Deed

Imagine yourself in the shoes of Angela Radtke: you're in a drug store parking lot, it's a hot day in San Antonio, and you see a baby locked inside a car alone with the windows rolled up. On one hand, you would certainly be breaking the law if you were to force entry into the car; on the other, the baby could be in serious danger. What would you do? Radtke was warned by a security guard that she could be arrested for breaking into the car to rescue the child, but she did it anyway.

In cases like this one, punishment seems inappropriate; yet, a law was broken. Certainly intentions – as subjective as they can be – are difficult to understand, which makes that judgment a more difficult task. Luckily for Radtke, the state's Good Samaritan law protected her from conviction for her crime. The person punished, rightfully, was the child's father, who had forgotten the baby in the vehicle for 40 minutes before the passerby intervened.

Good Samaritan laws are a great example of how the criminal justice system has built in structured flexibility to allow certain overarching laws – like those against breaking and entering – to be bent. In such cases, allowing a citizen to break a law actually offers the result that the original law intends; that is, public safety is achieved. And when that is the case, the criminal becomes the hero.

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