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View Full Version : Police procedures: Seeking a suspect through his previous contacts



afarnam
01-30-2015, 11:49 AM
I'm looking for information on how police would react when looking for a suspect who is strongly believed to have committed a violent crime. This would be a high priority for the police and would quickly escalate beyond state lines. The suspect fled in a stolen car before police arrived and quickly switched to another car and then abandoned that one and was picked up by someone else. The police quickly roadblocked around the small town but they believe he was able to slip through. Several days have passed and they know he used to live in a city in another state as a child and would probably have friends there. Through FB posts and other such things they track down a few of his friends in the city. So, here are the questions:

Who would actually approach these friends (state police, FBI)?

Are the friends legally obliged to turn over all of their previous emails or only obliged to report any contact with the criminal AFTER the crime was committed?

If the known "best buddy" of the friend cooperates fully, hands over his email history and appears to be trying to help the police as much as he can, how long with the police or FBI physically follow him around? How long will they monitor his phone and data use?

If said best buddy of the suspect starts housesitting for an employer (he's a landscaper) a few weeks later, would the police want to search the employer's house? They would need a warrant on the wealthy employer, wouldn't they? How hard would such a warrant be to get?

Thank you for any help!

cornflake
01-30-2015, 02:14 PM
I'm looking for information on how police would react when looking for a suspect who is strongly believed to have committed a violent crime. What kind of violent crime? Like, against whom? How strongly believed? This would be a high priority for the police and would quickly escalate beyond state lines. The suspect fled in a stolen car before police arrived and quickly switched to another car and then abandoned that one and was picked up by someone else. The police quickly roadblocked around the small town but they believe he was able to slip through. Several days have passed and they know he used to live in a city in another state as a child and would probably have friends there. So they don't actually know where he is or went? Through FB posts and other such things they track down a few of his friends in the city. So, here are the questions:

Who would actually approach these friends (state police, FBI)? This is very dependent on what you're talking about. From what's above, no one is, imo. They don't know where he is, or that he's actually left the state. Old childhood friends from a state he lived in as a child seems waaay down the ladder of where to look.

There may be reasons something like the FBI is involved, or that someone would be looking there, or this deep, but as you've outlined it, I'm not seeing it.

Are the friends legally obliged to turn over all of their previous emails or only obliged to report any contact with the criminal AFTER the crime was committed? No, and no. A court order could maybe get something from an ISP, maybe, but there'd have to be cause and 'when he was a child, he knew Bob,' isn't it. Also, if your old friend Bob calls you and says 'hey, what's up, I'm in town, want to get coffee?' and you do and Bob happens to be wanted for something in some other state? This is not your problem.

If the cops come looking for Bob, whom you haven't seen, and they tell you they want him, have a warrant for him, but you say he's not there and you haven't heard from him but he's actually hiding in your basement, then you can be in trouble.

If the known "best buddy" of the friend cooperates fully, hands over his email history and appears to be trying to help the police as much as he can, how long with the police or FBI physically follow him around? How long will they monitor his phone and data use? Ok, what did this guy theoretically do? Unless this is some very, very serious, national security-type shit, this isn't even close to happening. The level of surveillance you're talking about is not deployed for random old friends of people who committed a crime.

If said best buddy of the suspect starts housesitting for an employer (he's a landscaper) a few weeks later, would the police want to search the employer's house? They would need a warrant on the wealthy employer, wouldn't they? How hard would such a warrant be to get? I'm confused. Did they find and arrest him? What do they want with the employer's house? Yes, they need a warrant for the guy's house if he doesn't offer, and how hard it is to get depends.

Thank you for any help!

See le bleu. Basically, you'd best be looking for Tim McVeigh's long lost brother if this is what you need to happen.

afarnam
01-30-2015, 03:37 PM
Thank you, Cornflake. That's a start.

Okay, technically the guy entered a university classroom with a gun, shot and injured one guy and abducted a female student. Then another student was killed accidentally by athorities while they were trying to apprehend the shooter. That's technically. In fact, the shooter is part of a group that the authorities don't like for a host of reasons but don't generally have the luxury of going after directly. And some powerful factions consider the female student who was abducted to be "a national security threat." The reason the shooter abducted her was actually because he found that out and was trying to protect her. So... Yes, there would be some significant resources used but not "no holds barred." There are still bigger fish out there than these two but they are playing with some serious fire.

This is alternative reality in which there are a lot of underlying issues (call them geopolitical) but law enforcement MOSTLY behaves the way it does now. Perhaps the best way to look at is that, authorities would consider the shooter and his abductee to be "connected to international terrorism" which can be a key phrase that sets off all kinds of wheels in law enforcement. But the shooter is not a major wanted terrorist yet, just someone who they considered to be connected.

So, on the specifics.

No, they don't know where he went. He was pretty successful in the initial escape.

He wasn't only friends with people in another state as a child. He corresponded with them on Facebook and email regularly since he lived there. And some of those people are known to be involved in the group that he is involved with (which isn't illegal per se but disliked by the authorities).

When the authorities contact his buddy and he is genuinely shocked at what his friend did and he tells them that the friend wrote him a couple of emails two days before the incident and asked if he could come for a visit. So, the authorities have some reason to believe he would go to that city and contact this friend. In actual fact, the shooter didn't plan his attack and wrote those emails not knowing he was going to break any laws and need to flee to his friends. He had other troubles and wanted to visit.

The issue is that I do want him to show up eventually (about two weeks later) and his buddy will hide him, if reluctantly. So, the issue I have to get to the bottom of is how much surveillance said buddy is going to be under and when the authorities become a bit more suspicious of him and see that he is now staying at an absent employer's property, they want to search it. How hard is it for them to get a warrant to search such an employer, given that they only suspect that he is hiding something?

ironmikezero
01-31-2015, 12:34 AM
Assuming your tale is set in the US... There will be differences if your character is charged with only violations of state laws vs what would happen if there were federal violations - although there can be both. If you want to play the "national security/terrorism" card that's another level as well (very intense scrutiny of all involved parties). You'll need to decide which playing field you're on.

One doesn't always need a search warrant. The property owner (or whoever has been granted care/custody/control) can agree/consent to a search. OTOH, there may be exigent circumstances that preclude the application for a search warrant, but that's a legal tar baby that may be beyond the scope of your inquiry.

afarnam
01-31-2015, 01:33 AM
The reason this is unclear isn't because I can't decide. It is because this is alternative reality. I kind of need to know what would be the procedure if it was considered terrorism related AND what would be the procedure if it was just considered a serious felony where the suspect had fled the state. It would probably be somewhat of a combination. As I said before the alternative reality is similar to the US at present in many ways but different things are considered "terrorism" than we consider to be "terrorism" in our world.

Thank you for your insights, in any event. :)

ironmikezero
01-31-2015, 02:59 AM
Okay, that does in fact help...

The original investigator would likely exhaust all leads within his/her jurisdiction; send leads out to nearby jurisdictions as requests to investigate, locate potential witnesses, etc. If the subject is suspected (or confirmed) of being out of state, the investigator might have limited (department) resources, consequently be temporarily stuck, and need federal help.

If it's a serious/extraditable state felony (logged into NCIC), the original investigating LE agency can submit it to the local US Marshals Fugitive Task Force. Adopted as a task force case, the full weight of a federal investigation comes to bear (the original investigator would be assigned TDY to the task force and given enhanced authority via special deputation). US Marshals never stop, and will hunt the fugitive worldwide. The FBI could also get involved, filing an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) warrant, or treating the abduction as an interstate kidnapping. Anyone lying to federal investigators commits a felony (18USC1001) and is subject to arrest & prosecution in the federal system.

Now if you up the ante by making it rife with "national security" and "terrorism" issues, everything escalates to the max. Every federal agency with a vested interest gets involved. No resources are spared, no stone unturned - the intensity is constant. It will only abate with the subject's capture or death.

Note that "abate" does not necessarily mean "end". Any new leads developed in the course of the investigation are pursued (just as intensely when warranted).

You can craft the story's alternative reality as you wish, but if you intend to parallel or mirror this world, be aware of the above as a baseline for comparison.

afarnam
01-31-2015, 11:29 AM
Thanks, Ironmikezero.
Yes, I do want to mirror reality in most things. So, the specific question remains. If the situation was escalated to the max (with terrorism associations) how long would agents be physically following an apparently fully cooperative friend of the suspect around, such as tailing him on a morning jog, for instance? How hard would it be to get a warrant to search his absent employer's property (i.e. can they phone it in, do they need to return to an office to get approval or anything, does it take seconds or minutes or hours to get, is there a range?) because they vaguely start to suspect he might be hiding something and he's spending a lot of time house-sitting his employer's property (about three to four weeks after the fugitive fled)? Many thanks.

Mr. Mask
01-31-2015, 12:49 PM
A lot of this depends on the local law, to the extent where federal agents may receive pushback if they throw around their power too much (though if the case is extreme terrorism, no one may dare to hinder the investigation).

In the case of extreme terrorism, you could get up to martial law or investigators given the power to search any residence they deem suspicious without prior consent (police can already deem a place suspicious and search it under certain conditions). Normal local methods ought to be enough, so special action mightn't be necessary (the state may ask for more manpower).

I think the general rule if cops need a warrant to search a place and don't have it before reaching the location, is that they can phone it in and wait a while for the paperwork to go through, at which point they're given the OK (what I can't remember is how this is handled if the owner of a residence requests to see a warrant).

As for how long they'd follow associates, that'd be 24/7 to the full extent of the law (or beyond the legal extent if it is a more cynical story), depending on how suspicious the individuals are and how much manpower they have to go around (between how many potential suspects).


Know any cops? If you know someone who knows one or can meet up with a local policeman, they'd probably be happy to discuss some of this. Many are tired of hollywood representations, and would likely enjoy sharing their experience.

ironmikezero
01-31-2015, 10:08 PM
Search warrants are only issued by a court of appropriate jurisdiction pursuant to a finding of probable cause articulated in a sworn affidavit. The time factor will vary by case circumstances. The fastest (mere minutes) would be secured via a cell phone conversation (with the judge) while the perimeter of the target property is secured pending verbal warrant approval (documentation follows in the normal course of court business).

Remember, a search warrant isn't needed if the owner consents to the search; the house-sitter would have no standing to object and would be subject to arrest should he interfere.

Surveillance (on your suspected associate) could be covert or overt - or both, per circumstances and dynamic investigative strategies. And Mr. Mask has the right of it - it would be 24/7. Resources would not be an issue in a "terrorism" case. The scrutiny would be intense and prolific.

I hope you find this helpful.

afarnam
02-01-2015, 01:15 PM
Okay, yeah, this gives at least sort of idea.

So, first the house sitter isn't the only person the authorities believe the suspect may contact although he is one of the prime people. He appears very cooperative, so they follow him for a week or two and then only continue to monitor his communications and data traffic. That is going to be my assumption.

Again, this is considered "terrorism related" but not major terrorism or a top suspect. The suspect himself committed a crime that wasn't directly a terrorist act, although it was a violent crime, and he is now believed to have associations with terrorist groups at least to some extent although exact details aren't known. In any event, he isn't a big fish. There are lots of other fish out there and the authorities are searching for other people at the same time, including people they are more desperate to catch. So, there isn't marial law.

The bit about the search warrant. Even though the cops have stopped monitoring the house sitter's every physical move, a state cop has acquired a specific dislike of him. He has a hunch that this guy has contact with the suspect despite all of the surveilance. He goes out with a colleague to check out the property that the guy has started to house sit and see if he can get probable cause for a warrant. The house sitter, who was previously very coopertive when at his own home, politely tells them that he can't let them onto his absent employer's property without a warrant. (In reality, he is hiding the fugitive at that property but the cops have little to go on as there has been nothing suspicous reported by neighbors and they have no proof.)

The state cop who has a hunch about this then leaves an officer to watch the place and the house sitter from the street, asks him to stay on the property (which he agrees to) and goes to talk to superiors to attempt to get a warrant. He is successful in getting a warrant and contacting the absent owners but it takes more than an hour. By that time, the house sitter has managed to help the fugitive flee out the back. (This is a very wealthy neighborhood, one with no actual fences between properties but only hedge rows of trees separating large estates.) The house sitter also flees when the cops return in force because he knows he can't erase genetic evidence of the fugitive staying at the property and so he is now a fugitive too.

Any holes?

Thanks.

ironmikezero
02-01-2015, 09:43 PM
One hole... Your state cop doesn't have enough; a hunch, despite how zealous and insistent he may be, doesn't rise to the level probable cause. He's not gonna get the search warrant - he'll only draw concerned scrutiny from his immediate superiors. Running out of options, have him contact the absent property owner and convince him/her to consent to the search. That gives your house-sitter time to facilitate the escape for himself and the fugitive. This also ratchets the tension up appreciably (is the property owner innocent, or a co-conspirator - will or won't he/she cooperate?).

What happens after the successful escape? Do the two fugitives stay together? Can they really trust one another? Has either a hidden agenda?

Work this from several angles, move the plot in the direction that escalates the jeopardy for your characters, and plan a twist that your readers won't see coming.

Best of Luck!

afarnam
02-02-2015, 02:32 PM
Thanks, ironmikezero.

There is plenty more going on in the plot. Fear not. This is actually a rather minor incident but one I want to get right.

I'm wondering if I should change the state cop into a federal marshal. I don't know much about how those guys opperate but I was starting to think I might want them to run into the same guy later on in another state, so it might be good to make the one who has the suspicions a federal marshal. Any details on that. Do those guys drive police cars? Are their uniforms different? Do they have uniforms? Do they have different rules about warrants?

ironmikezero
02-02-2015, 10:48 PM
If you go with the US Marshals Service (USMS - US Dept. of Justice - DOJ), not to be confused with Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS - US Transportation Security Administration/Homeland Security - TSA/DHS), get the missions (very different for both agencies) and titles right.

US Marshals are appointed for four year terms by the US President. Deputy US Marshals are career civil service employees. Other titles include; Chief Deputy, Supervisory Deputy, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Special Deputy/Task Force (TDY), Detention Officer, Court Security Officer (depending on assignment and competitive career ranking on the GS pay scale). Some positions are contracted (CSO).

Federal Air Marshals at the journeyman level are titled Air Marshals, and are career civil service employees (GS pay scale)

http://www.usmarshals.gov/index.html

http://www.tsa.gov/about-tsa/federal-air-marshals

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Air_Marshal_Service

Begin the research with these sites; you'll find many of your questions answered.

USMS investigators generally work in plain clothes, but they do have standardized articles of clothing (think mission specific - raid jackets, SRT/SWAT/SOG gear, etc.). Vehicles are very diverse, and for the most part unmarked, but of course not all - again, think mission specific.

Rules relating to warrants are found in federal statutes and codified rules of procedure.

http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/RulesAndPolicies/rules/2010%20Rules/Criminal%20Procedure.pdf

gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR

This may represent a lot of material to digest, perhaps more than you need. Nonetheless, it is detailed and factual. It never hurts to have this sort of resource available.

If you have more generic questions... well, you're in the right place - ask away.

afarnam
02-03-2015, 08:11 AM
Thank you very much, Ironmikezero. That is the sort of thing I need to know. Basically, I hope I can figure out before doing all of the indepth research whether US Marshals would be doing this job. It would not be Federal Air Marshals because this has nothing to do with airports, airplanes or transportation. So, I'm assuming that wouldn't be the case.

Really I don't particularly care if my agent is state police, FBI or US Marshal. I just want to get right what he SHOULD be, given what he's doing. Maybe you could give me an educated guess on which I should choose and then if I really do need it to be a US Marshal, I'll go into that research. (And thanks for the links.)

The deal is as I said before that a suspect committed a violent crime (shooting in a university) and is believed to have terrorism connections. He kidnapped one person but authorities believe that person may actually be an accomplice. The suspect manages to leave the state and is believed to be making his way to the city where he grew up in order to contact friends. It is a high profile case (in the media and with terrorism connections) but again he isn't a terrorist leader. The authorities are also after terrorist leaders at the same time, so this is not THE highest priority on the federal level. The suspect does however have something that the authorities believe is a national security threat and they would very much like to get this thing back.

So, who is called in to investigate and monitor the suspect's key contacts? I would prefer it to be someone who has a fair amount of decision-making power and someone who can persue the case long-term, i.e. if the suspect turns up in another location a year from now, after the trail going cold in the meantime, that same agent can pick up and go after him. Who would this be? Is it reasonable to say the same officer or agent could be dealing with monitoring and investigating the suspect's friends a week after the incident and still be on the case in another state a year later?

I know these are really specific questions. I really appreciate any educated guess that can get me at least researching the right agency. Thanks! :D

ironmikezero
02-03-2015, 10:04 PM
What you've described is a case with overlapping/concurrent jurisdictions (state/federal) and investigative responsibilities (FBI/USMS/DHS). The kidnapping and terrorism aspects are the FBI's forte; DHS has a vested interest in the terrorism threat; and the USMS would hunt the fugitives. All would employ surveillance as needed, both short and long term. Pragmatically speaking there really is no time limit on the investigation; it remains an open case, pending new leads, until arrests are made and the prosecution commences.

I'd suggest an ad hoc task force, a team comprised of investigators from all interested agencies (including your protagonist MC). You can craft it on a small scale (four-five characters with a number of second tier characters as admin & support staff); keep it manageable and dynamic. As circumstances warrant, your team members can call upon their respective agencies for specific expertise, technical and tactical support.

Should the trail grow cold, the task force can temporarily suspend proactive operations, pending new leads. The task force can reassemble and proceed with operations at any time.

Case agents do not relinquish investigative authority/responsibility (unless specifically reassigned) for the duration of the case. Your protagonist may have other cases assigned in the interim (pending new leads in the ongoing case); however, he/she would be right back in the midst of the original case whenever new evidence/info came to light.

Since you're drafting an alternate reality, you've got considerable leeway. Don't get too hung up on the bureaucratic and procedural details in this reality. Your primary responsibility is to weave a good tale, tell an engaging story that entices the reader to crave what happens next. How the characters interact and deal with unexpected plot twists... aye, therein lies the crux... Don't lose your perspective.

afarnam
02-03-2015, 11:26 PM
Ah, yes, no worries about that. It actually isn't a police procedural. I just have to understand ten times more than I really need in the actual story in order make it feel seamless to the reader. I think the joint task force is the thing to use. That should just about nail it down for me.

Now, what does one call a US Marshal? If a police officer is Officer Williams or whatever? What is a US Marshal called? Agent Williams or whatever? How doe they introduce themselves when interviewing someone?

Many thanks.

ironmikezero
02-04-2015, 12:03 AM
An operational (as opposed to administrative & support staff) member of the USMS is addressed as "Marshal" (the presidential appointee/USM), "Chief" (Chief Deputy US Marshal/CDUSM, or Chief Inspector), "Supervisor" (SDUSM), "Inspector" (INSP), "Deputy" (DUSM). Recipients of special Special Deputations (e.g.,Task Force personnel) are "Deputies". Court Security Officers are also special deputies but are referred to as "CSO..." . Detention Officers are "Officer...".

Formal introductions merit use of the complete title... Deputy US Marshal Smith...

Task force personnel, TDY from their home agencies (while nonetheless specially deputized to grant federal authority) are typically introduced with any rank they may be entitled to within their agencies.

Example:

"Good afternoon, ma'am. I'm Deputy US Marshal Smith."
(displays credentials).
"This is my partner Detective Sergeant Jones of the State Police."
(displays credentials)
"We need to ask you some questions..."

Remember, if the interviewee is suspected of a crime, early on in the discourse the Miranda Warning must be given.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_warning

afarnam
02-04-2015, 09:16 AM
Thanks for the titles.

Now, on the Miranda Warning. The people being interviewed in the scene that is detailed in the book are not suspected per se. It is the friend of the suspect (known to have publicly conversed with him very briefly about a joke on Facebook a month or so ago). He isn't necessarily suspected of having committed a crime but it is believed (because of his association in an organization with an interest in the political ramifications of the case as well as because he's a friend) that the suspect might contact him or try to seek shelter with him. There is at this point no reason to believe that the friend has committed a crime in hiding the suspect (and in fact he hasn't at that point and he is still inclined to cooperate fully with the authorities, although that changes later). BUT he could have theoretically. I assume that he isn't treated as if he is suspected of committing a crime simply because circumstances mean that he might be tempted to commit such a crime. So, they would have a "friendly" discussion. They would ask to come into his house without a warrant. He would allow it. They would ask to see a recent email (from a few days before the incident) that he reports receiving from the suspect. And so on. Without this warning?

Okay, one last question (I hope). When (a month later) the Marshal become suspicious of the friend's time spent at an employer's property and the significant (if unremarkable) data traffic that occurs there through his phone, and he arrives to talk to him with other members of the task force, WHO then leaves to try to contact the employer and/or seek a warrant to search the place (given that the friend says he can't allow them on his employer's property without a warrant)? The Marshal, the FBI agent or the state detective? And who stays to watch the property? Can I choose as I wish? (I'd rather the Marshal stayed to watch the friend because he has a personal dislike of him (despite his apparent cooperation earlier), while sending someone else to deal with the bureaucratic stuff.)

Many thanks.

ironmikezero
02-04-2015, 10:22 PM
The case agent (or most senior person on the scene) would dispatch a team to contact the property owner and secure permission. Meanwhile, other task force personnel would maintain a secure perimeter.

Should a search warrant be required, any one of the task force personnel would have the authority to seek the warrant. It would most likely be the case agent, who should know the most about the case (that would also serve to maintain continuity within the storyline). Remember, to secure the search warrant he/she need not leave the premises to do so - it can be done electronically (via telephone, text. etc.).

You can pick and chose which characters would be so assigned these specific duties.

afarnam
02-04-2015, 11:49 PM
Okay, thanks.