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jallenecs
04-14-2011, 09:30 AM
I'm second drafting my story, and realized that I need serious help in one chapter, as regards police procedure.

Here's the situation: well after midnight, my hero walks into a church, where he's supposed to meet the preacher (the preacher was expecting him; they're friends). He finds the preacher beaten half to death, a young stranger in the chapel, and another young man murdered and mutilated by the stranger.

My hero tries to stop the killer, gets his butt kicked for his troubles, and the killer gets away. Hero can't save the mutilated kid, so he goes to his friend. He calls 911, then, while waiting for the cops, does a couple things that, while not illegal, he doesn't want the cops to know about.

The cops walk in while he's coming out of the preacher's office. He's carrying a robe he found in there, to cover the preacher, who's going into shock.

My question: How would the cops react? What is the procedure: you walk in and find a dead body, a badly injured man, and a beaten up guy who CLAIMS he was the one who dialed 911.

I figure he'd be checked for weapons and detained. But would he be arrested? Questioned there on site? Taken to the police station?

Steve Collins
04-14-2011, 06:08 PM
Well the 911 call would be easy enough to prove as they are all recorded and if he made it on his cell that could be confirmed.

The cops responding would be wary but would also be expecting to find the Good Samaritan on the scene, he would be questioned at the scene then asked if he would go to the station to make a full report.

At least that's how we'd deal with it in the UK.

Aaron Wilder
04-14-2011, 07:24 PM
I figure he'd be checked for weapons and detained. But would he be arrested? Questioned there on site? Taken to the police station?

IMO
I think a pat-down could be considered an illegal search without permission or probable cause. If they saw a bulge in the clothing or something resembling a weapon inside a jacket, then probabe cause is less iffy. You can't just arbitrarily search everyone at the scene.

Most likely they would detain him on site and question him, then ask permission take fingerprint/DNA samples. If he refused, then they can use the refusal as probable cause to get a warrant then get a little more invasive with the search (removal of clothing, etc.).

It's all based on the degree of suspicion. If the caller was anonymous and didn't let them know he would still be there, that's more suspicious then someone calling 911 and giving the operator their name and waiting at the scene per their instructions. Putting a blanket over a body or a shock victim is different than being caught looking through their wallet.

The Grift
04-14-2011, 07:38 PM
IMO
I think a pat-down could be considered an illegal search without permission or probable cause. If they saw a bulge in the clothing or something resembling a weapon inside a jacket, then probabe cause is less iffy. You can't just arbitrarily search everyone at the scene.

Most likely they would detain him on site and question him, then ask permission take fingerprint/DNA samples. If he refused, then they can use the refusal as probable cause to get a warrant then get a little more invasive with the search (removal of clothing, etc.).

It's all based on the degree of suspicion. If the caller was anonymous and didn't let them know he would still be there, that's more suspicious then someone calling 911 and giving the operator their name and waiting at the scene per their instructions. Putting a blanket over a body or a shock victim is different than being caught looking through their wallet.

Myth. Probable cause is not necessary to frisk someone. It's called a Terry Stop. Terry v. Ohio. You can get frisked for far short of probable cause. The standard is "reasonable articulable suspicion." All that means is that the cop has to be able to think of a reason he might search you. E.g. He was standing next to a dead body. That search is limited to weapons.

jallenecs
04-14-2011, 11:23 PM
Oh, thank you all SOOOO much. This saves me a complete rewrite!!!

Aaron Wilder
04-14-2011, 11:33 PM
Myth. Probable cause is not necessary to frisk someone. It's called a Terry Stop. Terry v. Ohio. You can get frisked for far short of probable cause. The standard is "reasonable articulable suspicion." All that means is that the cop has to be able to think of a reason he might search you. E.g. He was standing next to a dead body. That search is limited to weapons.

Reasonable suspicion - that's what I was thinking of :cry:. Never knew it was called a Terry Stop though.

The Grift
04-14-2011, 11:44 PM
Reasonable suspicion - that's what I was thinking of :cry:. Never knew it was called a Terry Stop though.

It's named after the case Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). In that case the cops saw Terry and his buddies acting shady but not doing anything overtly illegal. The cop went up to them and Terry continued to act in a manner that the cop characterized as suspicious, but again he did not have probable cause to believe there was any specific illegal act. At one point the officer grabbed Terry, patted him down, and found a revolver.

The Court decided that an officer can do a pat-down for safety and that pat down should be limited to weapons and any very very obvious contraband than can be felt during a limited frisk. For example, the cop probably couldn't feel a pack of cigarettes and be justified in pulling them out of the suspect's pocket, opening it, and discovering the dime bag of coke inside.

RJK
04-15-2011, 07:27 PM
Question: did your character ID himself when he called 911? If so, the responding cops would expect him to be there.
In any case, he would be expected to provide a statement (after being treated for his own injuries).
If the cops see what looks like the bulge of a handgun, they will do a stop & frisk. Otherwise, they have no reason to suspect this good Samaritan. They will ask him what he was doing at the church after midnight. If the preacher able to talk?

strictlytopsecret
04-15-2011, 07:38 PM
If he refused, then they can use the refusal as probable cause to get a warrant then get a little more invasive with the search (removal of clothing, etc.)

Not unless they want a 4th amendment suit on their hands.

Refusing a search does NOT constitute probable cause.

~STS~

The Grift
04-15-2011, 08:22 PM
Not unless they want a 4th amendment suit on their hands.

Refusing a search does NOT constitute probable cause.

~STS~

True. To take it one step further, refusing a search also cannot be used to satisfy or even contribute to the lower standard of reasonable articulable suspicion necessary for a limited frisk (Terry Stop/Stop and Frisk).

But, people without knowledge of the law often give their consent pretty readily after a LEO asks the right way. There's lots of verbal judo involved in this.

All that being said, the presence of a couple of dead bodies, one of which is mutilated, is going to go pretty far in justifying a limited frisk for weapons for officer safety.