Many of us dread the idea of finding a human body. Wondering how we’d react in that exact moment and how badly the experience would haunt us is exactly the kind of thing that keeps up all night long.
The good news is that most of us will make it through our entire lives without ever discovering a body. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to know how you should react if you are one of the unfortunate few who does stumble across a body while you’re out and about.
If you don’t know if the person is dead or alive, you really should check and see if they have a pulse. If the body is still warm, try to perform CPR. Potentially saving a life is worth potentially destroying forensic evidence.
If it’s clear that the person has been dead for a while, move several feet away from the body so you don’t destroy a possible crime scene.
As you’re trying to determine if the person is alive, you should pull out your phone and call 911. Tell the operator exactly what is happening. In addition to telling you exactly what you should do, the operator will also help keep you calm.
Don’t be surprised if you’re told to stay in the area until the police arrive. Even if it turns out that the person died of natural causes, the police will still want to ask you a few questions. Yes, you want to answer these questions honestly. Don’t be surprised if the police ask you to provide fingerprints and possibly even a DNA sample. The exact nature of both the questions they ask and what they need from you will depend on the impressions the police get when they first view the scene.
Once the police have released you from the scene, permit yourself to indulge in some self-care. Many people consider discovering a body to be a traumatic experience. It’s okay to do whatever you need to do to cope. For some that could mean returning to their daily routine. For others, it could mean taking some time off work. Others might find themselves craving time with friends and family. Many will likely find that they require some counseling that will help them process what they went through.
While it doesn’t appear that California currently has any laws that specifically mention potential legal ramifications if you find but fail to report a body, it’s likely that if the police and prosecution choose, they could decide that file failure to report a crime charges if you don’t report you’re discovery.