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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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October 16, 1998: Responsibility of Bystanders to Crime; Gift Tax; Old Town Ordinance

Q: Concerning the incident in Primm, Nevada where an individual stood by and did nothing to prevent the attack and murder of a little girl, would the bystander be prosecuted here in Colorado unlike what happened in Nevada?

A: Except for certain professions where the possibility of child abuse exists, there is no duty to report or to intercede in order to prevent criminal activity, as long as the individual's conduct cannot be construed as part of a conspiracy or aiding and abetting, at least according to several area district attorney's offices. Although such conduct may be morally reprehensible, it is not a crime.

Q: I read your column about the gift tax problems a fan might trigger in giving a home run ball back to a slugger but you gave no solution (typical attorney!!). So, hot shot, how would you advise the fan?

A: Even though the tax code "taketh away" such things as freedom and money, it can also "provideth" the same. There are many ways to handle the problem but the obvious one also produces tax advantages. The home run balls in question are all supposedly destined for Cooperstown, or at least everyone involved so says. Thus, the fan should donate the ball to Cooperstown (which I have been told qualifies for charitable contributions) in such a way to generate income tax deductions for the fan but conditioned upon the fan having his or her day in the sun by meeting the hitter and having pictures taken. Therefore, this solution accomplishes the goals (plus generates tax advantages) without the disastrous tax problems that the straight forward approach would have caused. So just as in life, when it comes to the tax laws, it is not what you do but often how you do it.

Q: I thought that Old Town was supposed to be free from bicyclists and skateboarders using the sidewalks. Has the ordinance been dropped? I swear I am not going back there again!!!

A: I recently called the police department and was advised that the ordinance is still on the books. But because of a lack of funds and personnel, active enforcement may not always be consistent. As I have told others with the same complaint, call the police department. If downtown patrons, merchants, and workers "squeak" loud and long enough, maybe priorities will be changed.

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