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Georgina
12-11-2009, 02:52 AM
The police are called to a prep school one morning when a student is found dead in his room. He appears to have fallen and hit his head, though there's no sign of a struggle. His roommate says he slept through it -- he's slurring his words and appears to be drunk even at this early hour.

I'm hoping to get a feel for how the police investigation will proceed. The story is set in the US, probably New England.

1 :: Would the roommate automatically be considered a suspect and treated as such? (Handcuffs, etc?) Or would they treat him as a witness until they have more details?

2 :: The roommate is slurring because he drank a small amount of a spiked drink. (The victim drank most of it.) How would the police realise this? Would they give him a breath test, see his blood alcohol is nonexistent, and then draw blood to check for drugs?

3 :: How would the police realise the victim was drugged? Is it routine for them to do a tox screen after finding somebody dead, or would they only start looking after they realise that the roommate has ingested something?

4 :: Is there anything else you think I should know or resources you'd recommend I read?

Thank you for any help you can provide. This is a pivotal part of the novel and though I won't be going into a blow-by-blow of the investigation, I'd like to get the feel of it right.

Rowan
12-11-2009, 05:41 AM
I'm sure the cops will weigh in but speaking from my father's experience (as a cop) and my own research---hope this helps! :)


The police are called to a prep school one morning when a student is found dead in his room. He appears to have fallen and hit his head, though there's no sign of a struggle. His roommate says he slept through it -- he's slurring his words and appears to be drunk even at this early hour.

I'm hoping to get a feel for how the police investigation will proceed. The story is set in the US, probably New England.

1 :: Would the roommate automatically be considered a suspect and treated as such? (Handcuffs, etc?) Or would they treat him as a witness until they have more details? Don't think he'd be cuffed but they will question him, etc. Witness/suspect at this point = fine line. How old is he anyway? If he's underage that might alter LE action to some degree. They will search the room and take whatever evidence is deemed necessary...that much I know from my experience on a task force (as a fed). Is the container the punch was in - or his glass - still in the room? They'll likely take that...

2 :: The roommate is slurring because he drank a small amount of a spiked drink. (The victim drank most of it.) How would the police realise this? Would they give him a breath test, see his blood alcohol is nonexistent, and then draw blood to check for drugs? Don't think they would give him a breathalyzer test as they have no reason--he wasn't driving, etc. His supposed intoxication would be rather obvious... also, can't draw blood w/out PC or a warrant (I THINK!) You said he drank a small amount yet is acting "drunk"--is it your hope that the police assume he's drunk and not drugged?

3 :: How would the police realise the victim was drugged? Is it routine for them to do a tox screen after finding somebody dead, or would they only start looking after they realise that the roommate has ingested something? There's a deputy coroner on this board (he's been a great help to me) but during post-mortem blood will be drawn and tested... that's SOP based on my research and what he told me.

4 :: Is there anything else you think I should know or resources you'd recommend I read? I'll review my notes and get back w/you! Good luck! :)

Thank you for any help you can provide. This is a pivotal part of the novel and though I won't be going into a blow-by-blow of the investigation, I'd like to get the feel of it right.

suki
12-11-2009, 07:34 AM
Probably some law enforcement types will come along and offer even more assistance, but here are some of my thoughts (with some legal background and knowledge):


The police are called to a prep school one morning when a student is found dead in his room. He appears to have fallen and hit his head, though there's no sign of a struggle. His roommate says he slept through it -- he's slurring his words and appears to be drunk even at this early hour.

I'm hoping to get a feel for how the police investigation will proceed. The story is set in the US, probably New England.

1 :: Would the roommate automatically be considered a suspect and treated as such? (Handcuffs, etc?) Or would they treat him as a witness until they have more details?

He'd be at least a primary witness, so they would question him - and given the evidence they might consider him a suspect, so they'd be careful. But here's the thing - if this is a prep school meaning high school or less, he is likely a minor. If he's under 21, then having drunk any alcohol is a crime - so, they can arrest or cite him for underage drinking regardless of the potential murder/manslaughter/etc.

So...you have a lot of ways you can go, depending on the kind of police, how professional/careful/aggressive, depending on whether they really think he is a suspect, etc.

But, they will have probably cause to breathalyze him or draw some blood, because he is underage and appears intoxicated.

And, if he is a minor, depending on age, there may be different rules with how they treat him, even as a witness, but even more importantly as a suspect.

And the school officials may feel some responsibility to protect him as being in loco parentis to him. So... they may not let the police question him without trying to have someone with him. Or, they might also suspect him or not want to be involved, and might allow the police to question him/arrest him/cite him etc. regardless of his age.

How old is he? If he is 17 they will treat him differently than if he is 14 or 12. So...you likely need to be more specific about his age for future commenters.

But if I'm guessing at the likely scenario, I'd say they will question him as a witness/possible suspect, and if they think he is the likely suspect, they may use the underage intoxication to arrest him and draw his blood.

2 :: The roommate is slurring because he drank a small amount of a spiked drink. (The victim drank most of it.) How would the police realise this? Would they give him a breath test, see his blood alcohol is nonexistent, and then draw blood to check for drugs?

They would have no reason to take his blood unless they already suspect he had something other than alcohol. And by the time the saw the drug in the dead kid's system, it would likely be gone from the roommate's.

But, if they arrest him for underage drinking, they might draw his blood to prove that and then the blood sample could come back with the other thing.

3 :: How would the police realise the victim was drugged? Is it routine for them to do a tox screen after finding somebody dead, or would they only start looking after they realise that the roommate has ingested something?

There would be an autopsy, and that would check for any toxins/drugs. But it would likely be a day or more after the death, so by then, it's likely nothing would be left in the roommate's system. So, they'd either have to see evidence of the drug, or take the alive roommate's blood for some other reason - like for the arrest.

4 :: Is there anything else you think I should know or resources you'd recommend I read?

Figure out the state in takes place in, and then look up court cases of underage drinking and you might get more info on what they do when they suspect underage drinking.

Then you can research murder/manslaughter cases in that state.

And a great idea would be to see if you can find a law enforcement expert to answer these questions - a criminal lawyer, prosecutor, police office, etc.


Thank you for any help you can provide. This is a pivotal part of the novel and though I won't be going into a blow-by-blow of the investigation, I'd like to get the feel of it right.


good luck.

~suki

Georgina
12-11-2009, 07:42 AM
Thanks, Rowan! That's very helpful.

I've responded to your questions (and asked a couple more of my own) below.


1 :: Would the roommate automatically be considered a suspect and treated as such? (Handcuffs, etc?) Or would they treat him as a witness until they have more details? Don't think he'd be cuffed but they will question him, etc. Witness/suspect at this point = fine line. How old is he anyway? If he's underage that might alter LE action to some degree. They will search the room and take whatever evidence is deemed necessary...that much I know from my experience on a task force (as a fed). Is the container the punch was in - or his glass - still in the room? They'll likely take that...

He's sixteen.

The container is in the room (it's a sports drink bottle) but until somebody realises that the victim and roommate have been drugged, would the police be interested in it?


2 :: The roommate is slurring because he drank a small amount of a spiked drink. (The victim drank most of it.) How would the police realise this? Would they give him a breath test, see his blood alcohol is nonexistent, and then draw blood to check for drugs? Don't think they would give him a breathalyzer test as they have no reason--he wasn't driving, etc. His supposed intoxication would be rather obvious... also, can't draw blood w/out PC or a warrant (I THINK!) You said he drank a small amount yet is acting "drunk"--is it your hope that the police assume he's drunk and not drugged?

Mostly this is me trying to play "guess how the police work". (You can see how well it went!)

Since he's sixteen, I was thinking that their first assumption would be he'd been drinking, but I need for them to somehow come to the realisation that he's been drugged. Since he probably isn't aware of it himself, he can't articulate it, so I need to find something that'll make the police do a drug test on him. It sounds from what you're saying that he has to request it himself (or via his parent/lawyer) or it won't happen.

Since he drank some of the tained drink, he's a victim also. Could that angle some how be worked? Is there any chance that the police would suspect he'd been drugged (acting drunk but no alcohol on breath?) and suggest he voluntarily take a drug test?

This is a sticking point because if it isn't established quickly that he's been drugged, he'll be thrown out of school for being "drunk" on campus.

The alternative would be for him not to drink the tainted drink, but I think it works better for the story if he has uncertainties about what happend that night. We do like to make our darlings suffer.


3 :: How would the police realise the victim was drugged? Is it routine for them to do a tox screen after finding somebody dead, or would they only start looking after they realise that the roommate has ingested something? There's a deputy coroner on this board (he's been a great help to me) but during post-mortem blood will be drawn and tested... that's SOP based on my research and what he told me.

Excellent. I don't suppose you (or somebody else reading this) could estimate roughly how long it'd take? Assume we're in a smallish town (30k people maybe) if that might impact on where the blood is tested.

Cheers.

Georgina
12-11-2009, 08:33 AM
(Oops, cross-posting.)

Hi, Suki, and thank you for all the details you've given.

You've given me some great ways to force the drug test issue. Just knowing the possibilities exist is very cheering -- I'd been thinking I may have to chuck that aspect of the plot entirely and with it, an important thread in the book. Now I have several places to begin research.

Cheers!

Kalyke
12-11-2009, 10:37 AM
Two boys drink from a drugged bottle and one hits his head and dies, the other falls on a couch and goes to sleep? Probably unfair for the boy who dies, but I think they would treat both boys as victims until they maybe run out of options, and then-- well any port in a storm. If the dead boys father is really rich and screaming for blood and the sleeping boy's family is poor, you might have another dimention to this story.

Rowan
12-11-2009, 03:08 PM
Thanks, Rowan! That's very helpful.

I've responded to your questions (and asked a couple more of my own) below.
No problem --- hope this helps!



He's sixteen.

The container is in the room (it's a sports drink bottle) but until somebody realises that the victim and roommate have been drugged, would the police be interested in it?
Yes--they'll ask the 16 yo old what he drank, what the victim drank, etc. as they'll retrace every step leading up to the victim's death. Cops are pretty intuitive and they'll know right away that something isn't "right" with the victim or the survivor. You can easily work this into the story; they'd interview the kid, take the sports bottle into evidence and likely get the kid to the hospital. Both the victim and survivor's blood will be tested and compared, etc.


Mostly this is me trying to play "guess how the police work". (You can see how well it went!)

Since he's sixteen, I was thinking that their first assumption would be he'd been drinking, but I need for them to somehow come to the realisation that he's been drugged. Since he probably isn't aware of it himself, he can't articulate it, so I need to find something that'll make the police do a drug test on him. It sounds from what you're saying that he has to request it himself (or via his parent/lawyer) or it won't happen.
IF the police think his life is in danger-ie., they discover he's consumed something in the bottle--they can get him to the hospital and they of course will draw a blood sample. Easy enough fix! Not as a suspect mind you but as a victim...

Since he drank some of the tained drink, he's a victim also. Could that angle some how be worked? Yes (see above) Yes
Is there any chance that the police would suspect he'd been drugged (acting drunk but no alcohol on breath?) and suggest he voluntarily take a drug test? Yes (see above--hospital) His parents would likely demand he be given medical treatment insisting he's NOT a bad kid, doesn't do drugs, etc. etc.


This is a sticking point because if it isn't established quickly that he's been drugged, he'll be thrown out of school for being "drunk" on campus.

The alternative would be for him not to drink the tainted drink, but I think it works better for the story if he has uncertainties about what happend that night. We do like to make our darlings suffer.
You'll have no problem establishing this... hope that helps!



Excellent. I don't suppose you (or somebody else reading this) could estimate roughly how long it'd take? Assume we're in a smallish town (30k people maybe) if that might impact on where the blood is tested. I'm going to GUESS maybe a week or 10 days... the ME can give you a better guesstimate. :)

Cheers.[/QUOTE]

Cyia
12-11-2009, 03:48 PM
Out of curiosity, have you researched whatever chemical you're using? If the roommate was asleep, that means the drug was in his system for a while, so it should have metabolized (?) to some degree. If he's still visibly intoxicated then it would have to be some seriously powerful stuff if he only took a small drink.

Did the chemical kill your guy or the fall?

As for a drug test, some private schools have policies where they don't have to get parental consent before testing a kid, even a minor. It's a condition of attendance that the school can demand a random test on anyone at anytime (the parents would have been informed at the time they enrolled their kid, but they may not have read the full "handbook"). Some of the higher end prep schools would also have the equivalent of on staff advocates or lawyers who would speak for/represent the kid on the school's behalf until the parents arrive.

Also remember that with a 16 year old, the assumption is going to be that they put whatever was in the sports drink in the drink themselves. Prep schools and Vodka/Evercelar Scope (NyQuil, too) go together pretty well, and they're used to hearing the kid deny that they had anything to do with contraband. They'd most likely test the drink, assuming it was alcohol.

pink lily
12-11-2009, 03:50 PM
Two boys drink from a drugged bottle and one hits his head and dies, the other falls on a couch and goes to sleep? Probably unfair for the boy who dies, but I think they would treat both boys as victims until they maybe run out of options, and then-- well any port in a storm. If the dead boys father is really rich and screaming for blood and the sleeping boy's family is poor, you might have another dimention to this story.
If the characters are white then it is reasonable to expect that the cops would treat them fairly. If they are not white, it is more reasonable to expect that, as in real life, a non-white teen found at the scene of a crime with a dead body would be taken into custody.

RJK
12-11-2009, 08:30 PM
Your body will metabolize an ounce of pure alcohol in about an hour. So, if the roommate drank 1/3 of the bottle, assuming whoever spiked the drink, replaced less than 1/3 of the liquid with alcohol,he would have none in his system next morning. The victim, then would have drunk possible 3 to 4 ounces of alcohol. I suppose a tea-totaler would pass out from that much.
There's no exact correlation but you can approximately one ounce of alcohol for each 0.03 of blood alcohol.
You really need to drink a lot to get to the pass-out stage. Your blood-alcohol level needs to be above 0.22 for inexperienced kids. close to 0.3 for experienced drinkers.
I investigated an accident where the driver had a level of 0.38 and he was awake and driving (not very well, but driving).

suki
12-11-2009, 08:43 PM
If the characters are white then it is reasonable to expect that the cops would treat them fairly. If they are not white, it is more reasonable to expect that, as in real life, a non-white teen found at the scene of a crime with a dead body would be taken into custody.


This is a dangerous overgeneralization. And since we don't know the OP's place and time for her story (other than possible New England), it may actually be incorrect.

For example, a "townie" or "scholarship case" would actually be more suspect in this situation than an upper-middle class person of color, if the school's primary focus is wealth and power - the poor kid would be more of a minority.

And a religious minority could be more suspect than the majority if the school has a religious bent or the town is very conservative.

If the "prep school" is in a less affluent area, the local cops might actually suspect the rich and snooty kid over the working class kid, or the local kid made good, etc.

Hell, the school could even be primarily composed of students of color or be very diverse.

You can't know if the police are white or not.

Prejudices run in all directions - be very careful about generalizations that do not hold true in all environments, especially if you don't know the environment.

~suki

Georgina
12-12-2009, 04:11 PM
Thank you to everyone who's answered so far. I appreciate your generosity and your time.


Out of curiosity, have you researched whatever chemical you're using? If the roommate was asleep, that means the drug was in his system for a while, so it should have metabolized (?) to some degree. If he's still visibly intoxicated then it would have to be some seriously powerful stuff if he only took a small drink.

Hi, Cyia. That's good to know. I've done some reading on GHB, Rohypnol and Chloral Hydrate and the deaths that have resulted from them, but I had trouble finding a good summary of how a non-fatal dose would affect somebody along a timeline -- say, ten minutes after ingesting vs one hour vs six hours. If this is something you know about, I'd love to hear the details.


Did the chemical kill your guy or the fall?

Current plan is the fall, caused by uncoordination brought on by the drug.

Thank you for the information on drug testing in private schools. I'll look into that.

RJK, maybe I'm misunderstanding your post, but I think your information is on spiking with alcohol? I'm looking at a non-alcholic drink that's been spiked with a drug like GHB. Would you know how long that sort of thing takes to metabolise?

Rowan, thanks for the updates.

Use Her Name & pink lily, thank you for your thoughts.

Suki, your point about prejudice is well taken.

Cheers.

RJK
12-12-2009, 07:45 PM
Sorry Georgina - I did assume you meant spiked with alcohol. I'm not an expert on GHB but from what I've heard, the effects will wear off in 6 to 8 hours, and if the sports drink bottle had the correct amount of the drug, one drink would put a person out.

The Medical Examiner would definitely take blood samples and do a tox screen. With todays popular drugs, they would test for GHB.

The witness would be another question. He may request they test him, if he thought he'd been drugged. There would be a ticking clock on him. His body would be metabolizing the drug each hour it was in his system.

Kalyke
12-12-2009, 10:06 PM
If the characters are white then it is reasonable to expect that the cops would treat them fairly. If they are not white, it is more reasonable to expect that, as in real life, a non-white teen found at the scene of a crime with a dead body would be taken into custody.

I didn't really want to go there, but I think this would also make a very timely scenario, and good drama. What if the boy who didn't die used to have ties to drug pushers or maybe, some access to the pills used.

pink lily
12-12-2009, 10:13 PM
I didn't really want to go there, but I think this would also make a very timely scenario, and good drama. What if the boy who didn't die used to have ties to drug pushers or maybe, some access to the pills used.
I was just remarking that the police treat people differently based on their race, and a realistic story should reflect this unfortunate double standard.