Qui non improbat, approbat

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Qui non improbat, approbat

Literal Meaning

He who does not disapprove, approves.

Explanation & Origin

Origin – This maxim is of a Latin origin.

Explanation – This adage substantiates the principle in law that a person in authority may be punished for covering a very serious crime known to him. The legal maxim, “Qui non improbat, approbat”, which means he who does not disapproves, approves; is an established principle in law which is recognised under the offence called “misprision” in English law.

The term “misprision” refers to the deliberate act of hiding the awareness of a crime. For example, misprision exists when someone has knowledge that a crime is about to occur, and yet does nothing to stop it. Misprision of felony is a failure to report the knowledge of a felony one may have. Clerical misprision is another type of misprision which not as serious an offence as misprision of felony. It is a clerical error made by a clerk of the court which the courts can correct later on.

Illustration

Tom witnesses his brother, Steve, shoot Steve’s friend, killing her. Tom knows that murder is not only a crime but a felony. But, it’s his brother, so he doesn’t tell the authorities, and he helps Steve hide the friend’s body. Tom would be guilty of this crime because he not only saw the crime and knew it was a felony, but he also actively helped Steve hide the evidence of the crime.

Case References

In the case of United States v. Olson[1], the court held that in order to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of misprision; the government must be able to prove the following elements of misprision of felony:

  • That the individual alleged to have committed the crime did, in fact, commit the crime
  • That the individual accused of this crime was fully aware that what he was witnessed was a crime
  • That the witness failed to tell the authorities what he knew
  • That the witness took active steps toward concealing the crime

In the case of U.S. v. Daniel [2], Lewis Daniel received an indictment in South Carolina, which charged him with being aware of and illegally concealing knowledge of a murder committed on the high sea by John Furlong. 

In the case of Matter of Mendez[3] is an example of misprision as a deportable offense. Here, the respondent was a Dominican Republican citizen, though he was also a legally permanent U.S. resident. In December of 2010, the respondent received a federal conviction on the misprision of a felony. When he applied for admission as a returning resident to the U.S. in March of 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filed to have him deported based on his conviction. The Immigration Judge agreed with the DHS to categorize respondent’s misprision as a deportable offense. As such, the Judge ruled that the conviction ended respondent’s U.S. residency, which thereby made him ineligible for a deportation cancellation under the law.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1] 546 U. S. 43 (US Nov. 8, 2005)

[2]19 U.S. 6 Wheat. 542 542 (1821)

[3] 27 I&N 219 (BIA 2018)

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