PDA

View Full Version : Can the police legally do this while undercover?



ironpony
04-23-2016, 02:15 PM
In my story the police are working undercover, as part of a sting operation. Part of the sting, is an officer pretending to be a blackmailer, wanting to blackmail money out of the gang of villains, or he will turn over evidence on them to the police, unless he is paid.

The goal of the cops is to not have the villains be able to pay, but to send them into a panic to rush to destroy other evidence, and cover their tracks. The police are secretly monitoring them, and will go in and arrest them, once the evidence appears to be unveiled.


However, I was told by some readers that the police are not allowed to blackmail criminals, as part of a sting, as it would legally count ax extortion, or some other felony. Where as other readers tell me that, it's not extortion or a crime at all, because they are just appearing to blackmail the gang for money as part of the sting, to send them into a panic. No money is actually taken, and that was not the goal. So some readers say it's illegal, and some say that's it's okay to tell such lies while undercover as part of a sting.

Does anyone know more of a certainty on this, and what the distinction is? Thanks for the input. I really appreciate it.

Los Pollos Hermanos
04-23-2016, 02:43 PM
I can't help with the actual answer, so sorry for that. Is it worth contacting the police where you live/where the story is set and asking if they'd carry out a sting operation like this or, if not, how they might do it? Just an idea.

Treehouseman
04-23-2016, 02:49 PM
If the villains are already linked to the evidence, that would be better accepted in court.

I would have the undercover guy get more info / Intel passively then push/incite them into an act via another criminal act. The cops might arrest them on the face of them turning up after the blackmail, but it may not be admissible since they were incited into it by the cop. And if they were clever all they would have to say is that they aren't the bad guys, someone else hired them to do it!

PorterStarrByrd
04-23-2016, 02:51 PM
The police can't commit a crime, other than lying. In your scenario, the only crime is the blackmail. Paying or not paying is not against the law.

Pennguin
04-23-2016, 03:05 PM
What you're talking about is entrapment.

"In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit. It is a conduct that is generally discouraged and thus, in many jurisdictions, is a possible defense against criminal liability."

It's a gray area. Because the person might not have committed the crime had they not been faced with certain circumstances, they may avoid criminal charges when entrapped by law enforcement. You may or may not be aware of a TV show some years ago called To Catch a Predator, in which sickos from chat rooms and the like were lured by a TV crew into a "sexual encounter," only to be arrested by police. It was later revealed none of those arrested were convicted because it was entrapment.

Entrapment isn't necessarily illegal, but it provides a loophole for offenders. That's why, when the ATF goes after illegal gun sales, they pose as buyers or sellers to people who have already expressed an interest. The person has already showed intent to commit a crime, and the sale is arranged only to lure the person into a position where they can be captured.

If the police are aware (or suspect) the criminals have stolen evidence in their possession, they would likely present their case before a judge in order to obtain a warrant. In an undercover situation, the UC would likely attempt to gain the trust of a criminal "in the know," and coax the information out of him. Either that, or the UC would go looking for the evidence himself. He would not be able to present the opportunity for a crime, but he would be able to respond to a stated intent to commit a crime.

You could have the UC present false information, stating he caught wind of the police being onto them somehow, and that would then send them into a panic mode. Not knowing the particulars of the story, that may not work.

ironmikezero
04-23-2016, 07:52 PM
Stings, lying to criminals, undercover operations, etc. are legal tactics within the realm of criminal investigation strategies. However, such tactics must fall short of entrapment, as defined by pertinent/applicable statutes, case law, agency regulations/policies, etc. (always check the legal constraints of the jurisdiction in question--it lends credibility to your tale). Most agencies have written policies and guidelines carefully crafted within the parameters of pertinent/applicable statues, case law, etc. for the planning, operation, and disposition of such tactics. In short, the deployed tactic can provide the (apparent or actual) opportunity for a subject to commit a crime, but may not induce the subject to do so.

jclarkdawe
04-23-2016, 08:32 PM
Entrapment is one issue. Even bigger issue is whether this is an illegal search. Understand that for state and city cops, you're under both the Federal and state Constitutions. In New Hampshire, you have better rights on this issue under the state Constitution.

I think this is probably going to be an illegal search. Police would argue "consent" but I have my doubts the courts would buy it. Evidence would probably not be admissible at trial. Here's something simple you can look at on this type of issue -- https://www.fletc.gov/sites/default/files/imported_files/training/programs/legal-division/downloads-articles-and-faqs/research-by-subject/4th-amendment/ConsenttoEnterorSearchbyDeception.pdf

Jim Clark-Dawe

rugcat
04-23-2016, 08:48 PM
Entrapment is a gray area, and it's often contested in court. Whether or not something consists of entrapment can be ruled on quite differently depending on who the particular judge is and how he or she interprets the law.

The basic principle is always that it's allowable to give subject the opportunity to commit a crime, but not allowable to set up a scenario where the subject would commit a crime that they otherwise would not have done.

If you have a situation where someone has been preying on the homeless, robbing them as they lay intoxicated or sleeping or both, it is not entrapment to have an undercover officer lie down and pretend to be asleep, affording someone the opportunity to rob them.

However, if the undercover officer positions himself with his wallet sticking out of his pocket and money clearly visible to any passerby, that may well be entrapment and almost assuredly is -- it temps someone who ordinarily would not have attempted to rob anyone from taking what they see as easy money.

It's true than undercover officers cannot commit felonies in the course of their work. This makes it difficult in low level drug investigations, because savvy dealers will sometimes insist that the undercover officer sell them some narcotics to prove that The officer is not a cop.

The cops have gotten around this in some jurisdictions where it has been ruled allowable to trade up they can't sell narcotics to someone, but they can trade lesser for greater in other words the cop could "trade" marijuana (from the evidence room) for an equivalent amount of cocaine, giving the dealer a good deal of course.

In the situation you describe, the cops would certainly run it past the DAs office and get a legal opinion as to whether it was allowable. My feeling is that it would be an acceptable tactic, because they are not using pressure to get the subject to commit a crime -- they are simply trying to panic him into making a mistake.

Clearly if they were attempting to blackmail him in an effort to get him to sell them drugs, that would be not only entrapment but quite likely a crime in itself.

ironpony
04-23-2016, 11:17 PM
Stings, lying to criminals, undercover operations, etc. are legal tactics within the realm of criminal investigation strategies. However, such tactics must fall short of entrapment, as defined by pertinent/applicable statutes, case law, agency regulations/policies, etc. (always check the legal constraints of the jurisdiction in question--it lends credibility to your tale). Most agencies have written policies and guidelines carefully crafted within the parameters of pertinent/applicable statues, case law, etc. for the planning, operation, and disposition of such tactics. In short, the deployed tactic can provide the (apparent or actual) opportunity for a subject to commit a crime, but may not induce the subject to do so.

Okay thanks, but I researched entrapment in law and there is a difference in my scenario though. Entrapment is when the police get a criminal to commit a crime, he would have not committed otherwise, and then arresting him on that crime.

In my scenario, the police are blackmailing the criminals, with the intention if sending them into a panic, and then having them go to uncover evidence, of a murder, and be caught with that evidence, and the murder was already committed in the past. The crooks have already committed the murder, and would be re-incriminating themselves on it, and be arrested for the re-incrimination of a past crime.

So this is different from entrapment, because the crime they would be caught incriminating themselves, on and then arrested, has already been committed, as oppose to the police tricking someone into committing a NEW crime.

So I read that that is different and does not count as entrapment, if the murder they are incriminating themselves, on, has already been committed. Is that true?

T Robinson
04-24-2016, 03:01 AM
Okay thanks, but I researched entrapment in law and there is a difference in my scenario though. Entrapment is when the police get a criminal to commit a crime, he would have not committed otherwise, and then arresting him on that crime.

In my scenario, the police are blackmailing the criminals, with the intention if sending them into a panic, and then having them go to uncover evidence, of a murder, and be caught with that evidence, and the murder was already committed in the past. The crooks have already committed the murder, and would be re-incriminating themselves on it, and be arrested for the re-incrimination of a past crime.

So this is different from entrapment, because the crime they would be caught incriminating themselves, on and then arrested, has already been committed, as oppose to the police tricking someone into committing a NEW crime.

So I read that that is different and does not count as entrapment, if the murder they are incriminating themselves, on, has already been committed. Is that true?

Nope. It is entrapment in my opinion.

ironpony
04-24-2016, 03:10 AM
Oh okay. I keep reading that it's only entrapment, if the police trick the suspect into committing a crime, or tempt him to. Where as in this case, they are only tricking the suspect into making a mistake, and I read that therefore, it does not count.

Pennguin
04-24-2016, 03:48 AM
Okay thanks, but I researched entrapment in law and there is a difference in my scenario though. Entrapment is when the police get a criminal to commit a crime, he would have not committed otherwise, and then arresting him on that crime.

In my scenario, the police are blackmailing the criminals, with the intention if sending them into a panic, and then having them go to uncover evidence, of a murder, and be caught with that evidence, and the murder was already committed in the past. The crooks have already committed the murder, and would be re-incriminating themselves on it, and be arrested for the re-incrimination of a past crime.

So this is different from entrapment, because the crime they would be caught incriminating themselves, on and then arrested, has already been committed, as oppose to the police tricking someone into committing a NEW crime.

So I read that that is different and does not count as entrapment, if the murder they are incriminating themselves, on, has already been committed. Is that true?

My apologies. I read your first post incorrectly. It's not entrapment. It's not illegal to pay a blackmailer cash. It's illegal to blackmail someone for cash. Consequently, what you've described is a sting operation. Even if the criminals paid the ransom, they've done nothing illegal there as victims of the blackmail. The destruction of evidence of a previous crime they've committed, however, only adds to their criminal activity.

You stab a guy. You bury the knife. Someone calls you up, says they have a photo of you doing the stabby thing, and unless you pay a thousand bucks, the photo of the stabby thing will make it to the police. Even if you paid the thousand bucks, you haven't done anything illegal outside of the murder. If you then go to dig up the knife to get rid of it and are arrested for the murder based on that, then you'd be charged with the murder and possibly other things, but nothing to do with blackmail.

That's pretty much how stings work. Good call.

L. OBrien
04-24-2016, 03:49 AM
My question is what happens to the legal situation if the criminals put their head together and decide that it would be better for them to buy the blackmailer's silence. I'm not well versed in criminal law, but this seems like a slippery slope because when the UC officer informs the criminals of the blackmail it's a lie, but once they pay up, whether or not the officer had evidence it's essentially the same thing as blackmail.

The police can definitely lie that they possess evidence they don't, but I have a gut feeling that there are too many variables in a pretend blackmail operation for them to know that it won't turn into an actual crime.

However, as far as I can tell, it does sound like your situation is different from entrapment since the criminals are not being pressured to commit a new crime.

Pennguin
04-24-2016, 03:57 AM
My question is what happens to the legal situation if the criminals put their head together and decide that it would be better for them to buy the blackmailer's silence. I'm not well versed in criminal law, but this seems like a slippery slope because when the UC officer informs the criminals of the blackmail it's a lie, but once they pay up, whether or not the officer had evidence it's essentially the same thing as blackmail.

The police can definitely lie that they possess evidence they don't, but I have a gut feeling that there are too many variables in a pretend blackmail operation for them to know that it won't turn into an actual crime.

However, as far as I can tell, it does sound like your situation is different from entrapment since the criminals are not being pressured to commit a new crime.

The police would likely do all but be in a position to take the money. The blackmail statement is offered, the criminals come up with the cash and go to the drop point, but the blackmailer has disappeared into the ether. No harm, no foul, so to speak. Of course, the police would observe the criminals covertly, from the arranged "payment point" to wherever they go. If I'm being blackmailed over a murder I committed and I can't pay the cash because I can't find the blackmailer, my next concern is whether or not they decided to get the evidence I know about. I'd be paranoid. I'd probably do exactly what the police want me to do: go try to destroy the evidence.

jclarkdawe
04-24-2016, 04:35 AM
You stab a guy. You bury the knife. Someone calls you up, says they have a photo of you doing the stabby thing, and unless you pay a thousand bucks, the photo of the stabby thing will make it to the police. Even if you paid the thousand bucks, you haven't done anything illegal outside of the murder. If you then go to dig up the knife to get rid of it and are arrested for the murder based on that, then you'd be charged with the murder and possibly other things, but nothing to do with blackmail.

This would result in a search in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights if done by the police. The knife would not be admitted at trial. The police have tricked the defendant into uncovering the gun. Where Constitutional rights are concerned, tricking people is very, very difficult to do and not end up losing the evidence.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Pennguin
04-24-2016, 04:38 AM
This would result in a search in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights if done by the police. The knife would not be admitted at trial. The police have tricked the defendant into uncovering the gun. Where Constitutional rights are concerned, tricking people is very, very difficult to do and not end up losing the evidence.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Interesting. I wasn't aware that is considered illegal search, since it's not so much a search as it is the person being caught in the act of digging up the evidence. Thanks for the info. That's really odd, but interesting.

jclarkdawe
04-24-2016, 06:02 AM
One of the favorite cases is the cops who hooked a couple of wires between a defendant and a copier. The wires weren't hooked up to anything, but the defendant was told the copier was a lie detector. (We won't discuss the intelligence of many criminals.) Every time the defendant gave an answer the cops thought was a lie, one of them would hit the print button, without the defendant seeing it, and out would pop a piece of paper with "LIAR!" printed on it.

There's lines here as Ironmikezero describes. It's a balance between coming up with tactics that deceive and tactics that trick. We have Constitutional protections as to how far the cops can go.

To give a simple example. The police have reason to believe that on your ten acre property that you buried a body. The police have sufficient evidence to get a search warrant. The police can strip off the top ten feet of your property, or even more, searching for that body. They can announce in the papers that they know you have a body on the property and know where it is (they don't) and are going to be out tomorrow to dig it up. If you decide to go out that night and dig it up, they've got you.

However, if a cop goes up to you at a bar, doesn't say he's a cop, and says he's got a picture of you burying the body, and for $10k he'll destroy the picture, and you decide to dig it the body rather than pay, that would be self-incrimination and the body would not be able to be used as evidence. (The worst of this is that it actually makes sense to me.)

Obviously the cops need some scope in trying to suppress crime. For example, if you're in a marked cruiser, it's unlikely a hooker or drug dealer is going to go up to you to make a deal. But a cop can't go around asking people if they want him to kill their boss.

Jim Clark-Dawe

raelwv
04-24-2016, 07:01 AM
One of the favorite cases is the cops who hooked a couple of wires between a defendant and a copier. The wires weren't hooked up to anything, but the defendant was told the copier was a lie detector. (We won't discuss the intelligence of many criminals.) Every time the defendant gave an answer the cops thought was a lie, one of them would hit the print button, without the defendant seeing it, and out would pop a piece of paper with "LIAR!" printed on it.

As seen on Homicide: Life On the Street and The Wire. Both based on David Simon's book, of course, where I think it popped up as well. But, IIRC, that's not legally problematic - it's obtaining a confession through subterfuge, which is perfectly OK. A cop can tell a suspect "you're buddy's over there saying you did it all" when he actually isn't or say "you're DNA's all over the crime scene" even if it isn't. I think the "lie detector" would fall under the same heading.

I'd be interested in a case cite that would support the conclusion that the phone call to the murder that leads him to uncover evidence would violate the Fourth Amendment. Sounds like the kind of thing that would produce a lot of outrage during one of our case status meetings, but once I'd go off and research it we'd be disappointed (that happens with depressing regularity).

And on entrapment - one thing to keep in mind is that to successfully use entrapment as a defense that defendant usually has to prove a lack of predisposition to commit the crime. Thus if the people being set up in OP's work are criminals, it's unlikely they could plead entrapment (or that the cops would worry about it).

ironpony
04-24-2016, 12:50 PM
This would result in a search in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights if done by the police. The knife would not be admitted at trial. The police have tricked the defendant into uncovering the gun. Where Constitutional rights are concerned, tricking people is very, very difficult to do and not end up losing the evidence.

Jim Clark-Dawe

In my research though, I was only told it would violate the suspects fourth amendment rights, if the suspect hid the evidence in a privately owned place. Where as in this case, the suspect buried the victim's body, in a public place, out in the fields, outside the city. So since the cop's would be spying on him and see him uncover the body in a public place, it is therefore, not violating fourth amendment rights. One example I can think of is Breaking Bad:

SPOILER

Walter White is tricked into going to where his money is buried in the ground. It's a public place, outdoors, so the police do not need a search warrant or anything to see him go to where his money is buried, which they have tricked him into going to and leading the cops there.

Would this same scenario apply to mine, where fourth amendment rights are not violated?

Of course the police are not positive that the body would not be buried on a private residence, so they will have to take the gamble and hope it's buried on outdoor land, that they are allowed to survey someone on. But that's the gamble they take when trying to get suspects to make a mistake and incriminate themselves successfully. Let's say the suspects hid the dead body, in a shed, on outdoor land that is owned by one of them, but the police can see them sneaking the body out and load it into a van, from a far away view. If they see the evidence, first hand, can they move in and get it, or can they legally not do anything about it, if the outdoor land that the villains are standing on, is outdoors but owned?

Like for example, let's say a dead body is seen on someone's front lawn of a house. Do the police need permission from the owner to come onto the land, and if the owner says no, they have to apply for a warrant, before investigating the scene of the dead body, even though they saw it in plain view, but it was on owned land?


The police would likely do all but be in a position to take the money. The blackmail statement is offered, the criminals come up with the cash and go to the drop point, but the blackmailer has disappeared into the ether. No harm, no foul, so to speak. Of course, the police would observe the criminals covertly, from the arranged "payment point" to wherever they go. If I'm being blackmailed over a murder I committed and I can't pay the cash because I can't find the blackmailer, my next concern is whether or not they decided to get the evidence I know about. I'd be paranoid. I'd probably do exactly what the police want me to do: go try to destroy the evidence.

This is what I would have thought too. The police would not actually take the money, so therefore no new crime has been actually committed, since the blackmail would be false bluff.

Is it true though that the police can trick someone into taking them to evidence of a crime as long as the evidence is discovered in a public, outdoor place, such as in Breaking Bad?

ironmikezero
04-24-2016, 10:54 PM
Having the police involved in an apparent blackmail scheme, whether sanctioned or not by the relevant prosecutorial authority, is going to be staggeringly problematic for the inevitable court proceedings. I seriously doubt a pragmatically-minded prosecutor would approve any such tactic that is guaranteed to become a legal tar-baby--unless, of course you're trying to write a convoluted courtroom drama.

Let me make a suggestion; have a real blackmailer, another criminal, get into the act. Craft a character, a sinister opportunist (fence? hacker? cyber data broker?) who typically preys upon and/or offers services to other denizens of the underworld. This guy becomes aware of the murder and hears sufficient scuttlebutt to suspect the actual perpetrator. The initial blackmail attempt is a feasibility probe that bears a fruitful response, and now his interest is piqued. Since he's already known to the police, he may be under periodic surveillance, or be the subject of a court ordered wire (or could just as easily be identified via another wire on another subject--the possibilities are only limited by your imagination). That scenario gets the police involved with a clear and legal explanation.

ironpony
04-24-2016, 11:15 PM
Okay thanks. But if I do that way, the MC cop cannot solve the case the himself, with his own plan, and the real hero of the story, is some minor supporting character (the real blackmailer), cause it's the minor supporting character who tricks the crooks into uncovering the evidence. So I want the MC to solve his own goal, and not some minor supporting character who happens to conveniently know what the plot would require him to know.

I mean I am just going by my opinion but when this happens a lot in thriller stories, where a minor subplot character turns out to be the real hero and the MC has to just sit back and watch, I often think to myself, "really? This person is the one who saves the day??". But that is just how I see it, when it comes to stories where the writer has used that structure before.

Especially with the theme I am going for, which is for the MC to outsmart the villains catch them as well as winning his own system over by doing a better job them. But if some minor subplot character comes in and does it for him, then the theme gets lost if that makes sense.

But it was said before that a court would likely approve of the blackmail scheme, as long as no money was actually blackmailed, and it was just used as a trick. But there have been real life undercover cases where the police will engage in fake crimes to get criminals to expose themselves. I read about a real case, where the police participated in a fake money laundering scheme, to bust some crooks for OTHER crimes. If a prosecutor will accept money laundering in order to get a suspect to make a mistake, is false blackmail really that much of a tall order?

I can use a new tactic instead, but if the police are not allowed to put pressure on a suspect to get the suspect to make a mistake out of panic, how they are legally allowed to make a suspect panic, if forms of pressure are not allowed?

I really don't think the story will be good if another criminal character stumbles onto the villain's plan accidentally, because the police winning by accident, just feels a little too convenient, if it's an accident.

Plus I still am not told how this is a blackmail scheme. No money is actually extorted and it's just used to trick the suspect into making a mistake, so how it is a blackmail scheme exactly? Can anyone explain how it would it would be to the court, so I know the difference?

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 01:01 AM
Ironpony -- You're putting several different legal issues together and not understanding that each legal issue has its own legal history.

The police are allowed on nearly all public property, just like the rest of us. The police aren't allowed on private property, although there are lots of exceptions, just like the rest of us. That's the issue you're addressing and is the Fourth Amendment.

The Fifth Amendment gives us the right to not incriminate ourselves. This is the issue I'm presenting. As a judge wrote in an uncited decision on a case of mine, the police can mislead but can't lie. I don't quite understand the difference, but that's actually probably sort of close to the dividing line. Raelwv comments that a police officer can tell a suspect that his buddy confessed. But in New Hampshire, a police officer can't show a suspect the buddy's "written" confession, unless the buddy actually wrote it. By the way, in New Hampshire, a police officer who is caught doing questionable stuff goes on a list, and defense counsel, as part of the discovery they receive, will know about an officer who messes around on this stuff.

Even if the prosecutor wins the legal battle, it's going to be long, messy, and unpleasant.

There used to be a state trooper in New Hampshire, that during routine motor vehicle stops, would check your license for cocaine if the license looked frayed around the edges. His argument was that frayed licenses are a sign of a drug user. If you have your license for awhile, and it's near money, it will probably show some traces of cocaine. Lots of positives, and he'd charge the guy with a felony drug possession. Then at the probable cause hearing, he'd offer a misdemeanor drug, no jail, no supervised probation, and the defendant would grab the deal. He made this work for several years, until he hit someone who had no drug history, and the guy fought it. Hard. Ended up with the state trooper fired. He had, as every defense attorney knew, no probable cause to search the person's license by chemically testing it. However, he offered really good deals.

Are most books and movies accurate on this stuff? No.

But Ironmikezero was a federal investigator for many years, I believe Raelwv works as a prosecutor in West Virginia, and I represented a whole raft of criminal defendants. You've got something that is on the line. It might work, it might not. But anyone in the know is going to know that this is the type of thing that ends up in appeals courts. Or a really good plea deal.

However, it's up to you how you write your book. I like NCIS, a show that would end up in most cases being thrown out. For example, they're able to investigate on occasion federal income tax filings. Yeah, right. It's next to impossible. We're seeing the problems of tapping into phones in the real world that never seem to crop up on NCIS.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-25-2016, 01:16 AM
Oh okay, I see so it's a fifth amendment issue of having the right to not incriminate yourself. But what about in real life undercover scenarios where cops where wires, or get wire tap orders for phones, and they record the suspects talking about their crimes, and use the recordings as evidence later? There was a real life case, where the police got a warrant to go undercover with a wire and the suspect talked about a murder he committed with the undercover, after the undercover got to know him well, and gain his trust. They then prosecuted him and he was found guilty of murder, because of the recording, and he gave specific details of the murder, that only the killer would have known, as the information was not released publicly.

So if that is allowed in court, and you can talk a crook into confessing to crimes, and give specific detailed evidence of them and be prosecuted on it, wouldn't that fall under fifth amendment rights as well, or fall under a similar roof? What is the difference between that type of self incrimination, and being able to charged, compared to mine, where fifth amendment rights are violated, since in mine, an undercover officer also tricks the suspect into incriminating themselves with evidence?

rugcat
04-25-2016, 01:19 AM
I think the very fact that people with some expertise in the area have some disagreement on whether this would be legal makes it perfectly acceptable for a work of fiction.

It also depends on exactly what type of book one is writing. My very first book, a thriller about a police officer is meticulous in every detail about both police procedures and how cops would actually act in a given situation. It was written pre Internet, if you can imagine such a thing, which gave it a huge edge in terms of credibility at that time only people in law enforcement or close to it really could write about it with accuracy.

But the latest that I'm just finishing up is a lot looser. It's aimed at a different audience, and although there's nothing in it that is actually impossible nothing that is factually incorrect, i'm taking a lot of liberties. I really think that unless you're writing a scenario that is absolutely impossible, involving stuff no cop would ever do, you'll be all right.

James D. Macdonald
04-25-2016, 01:29 AM
You could just look up the details of ABSCAM, then change time, place, and names.

It strikes me that if the police know enough about the evidence that they can realistically pretend to blackmail the bad guys, they know enough about it to get a legitimate warrant without any need to play games.

ironpony
04-25-2016, 01:30 AM
Okay thanks. But would a cop do these things? Everyone is different so I am not sure when it comes to drawing the line at what is impossible and not.

Also, in my story, I would say that it is very technically correct for the first half, as the first half does have a lot of court proceedings, and does deal with the law in close detail. But it's not until the second half, where crap hits the fan, everyone gets desperate and desperate times call for desperate measures. So the first half seems much more technically correct. Therefore, can I break the rules in the second half, if they have been established a certain way in the first?

And in my story the police do not know about the evidence. They do not know where the crooks hid the body. They would be blackmailing the crooks not knowing, and just going by a theory, and hoping it would work.

But even if they did know where the dead body, was buried, the killers would have likely worn gloves and may not have gotten as much physical evidence on the dead body to incrimate all of them. By using the false blackmail scheme, it sends them into a panic, they go to move the dead body, and they are all caught with it then, which makes for more evidence, then just digging up the body and examining it. Plus if their DNA is not on file, that doesn't help. Where as tricking them into digging it up, they are caught there, and the DNA can be matched legally, cause of probable cause.

What do you think?

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 01:46 AM
Oh okay, I see so it's a fifth amendment issue of having the right to not incriminate yourself. But what about in real life undercover scenarios where cops where wires, or get wire tap orders for phones, and they record the suspects talking about their crimes, and use the recordings as evidence later? There was a real life case, where the police got a warrant to go undercover with a wire and the suspect talked about a murder he committed with the undercover, after the undercover got to know him well, and gain his trust. They then prosecuted him and he was found guilty of murder, because of the recording, and he gave specific details of the murder, that only the killer would have known, as the information was not released publicly.

So if that is allowed in court, and you can talk a crook into confessing to crimes, and give specific detailed evidence of them and be prosecuted on it, wouldn't that fall under fifth amendment rights as well, or fall under a similar roof? What is the difference between that type of self incrimination, and being able to charged, compared to mine, where fifth amendment rights are violated, since in mine, an undercover officer also tricks the suspect into incriminating themselves with evidence?

I emphasized the important parts. THE POLICE GOT A SEARCH WARRANT!!! That's incredibly different from a cop going off on his own. One is okay, the other gets a case dismissed and the officer fired.

If I remember right, this was a couple of weeks of criminal procedure class in law school.

Remember that the TV show or book ends with the conviction and not the scene where then appeals court throws out the conviction.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-25-2016, 02:02 AM
That's true.

But in those cases, they needed warrants for wires to record conversations. In my scenario, the suspects are tricked into moving evidence, that is outdoors, and can be seen from far away by binoculars and no conversational rights of privacy of being violated.

So would you need a warrant for that, if a cop can see the suspects moving evidence, by surveying and tracking them from far away? I read that the cops do not need a warrant to observe suspects incriminating themselves, if it can been seen from an outdoor point of view. Is that true?

If undercover police are following someone, and they seen someone incriminate themselves with evidence of a dead body? Do they have to make a call and ask for a warrant first? I read if if the suspects are going to dispose of evidence, such as in this case, and disposal is immanent, the police can arrest the suspects and get the evidence without a warrant, if the evidence was going to be destroyed, and destruction was immanent.

So in this case, destruction if evidence is immanent, and they perhaps do not need a warrant since it's in outdoor view of the cops surveillance.

The cops do not need warrants, if the destruction if evidence is scene in plane view while on surveillance. So does it still count as violating fifth amendment rights if the suspects are incriminating themselves, outdoors in plain view, and therefore no search warrant is needed?

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 04:12 AM
It's the "tricked" into moving the evidence that's the issue, not the search/watching. It may well be that blackmail threats have been tried already and approved by the courts. However, the threat of blackmail seems risky to me without doing the research. Even ignoring the legal issues, it seems risky to officer safety, and is going to need a fair amount of evidence to sell to the bad guy.

There's a simpler approach, and one that has been used in the past. The prosecutor or cop finds a sleazy reporter that loves to sneak information. You meet with the reporter about something, with a closed file on the information you want to leak. You spill some coffee on yourself, have to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, and leave the file. Reporter looks at it, copies the pictures in it, and publishes the story before you can get that search warrant you were planning on doing. The cop or prosecutor did nothing wrong, and the information that is going to cause the bad guy to do something is out there.

Tricking defendants has boundaries. That's where the issue is.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-25-2016, 04:50 AM
Okay thanks. What would the reporter say though? That there may be a dead body buried in a location but they want to get confirmation first and will have it soon? If it's done this way though, the villains, will most likely assume that the cops are already at the site of where the dead body was buried though, wouldn't they?

If a blackmailer does the tricking, the the villains would assume that only the blackmailer knows. But if it's the media, they will assume the police know already, so would the villains be tricked if they know that the police likely know, as oppose to only one 'civilian' person?

What about how Breaking Bad did it? In that show, they tricked Walter White, by blackmailing him saying his money was going to be destroyed, so panicked and lead the police to where he kept his money, in order to save it? How was that type of trickery acceptable compared to mine? I would just like to know the difference, so I can rewrite a different scenario, but know where the boundaries lie.

It seems the the level of officer safety there, is also risky, and the officer in the show accepted the risk. Plus they were not sure if they were able to sell the bad guy or not but went through with it anyway, with high hopes that it would legally pass.

I could use the reporter idea, but I do not see how the villains would not see it coming, that the police could already be where the dead body is buried, or watching it, cause if the media knows, then the police know. So wouldn't, they assume the police would know in that case, if the media is used and have published the story?

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 05:08 AM
One of the items in the file would be a draft copy of a search warrant. The story would be that the police plan on getting a search warrant in the next couple of days. Or a yellow post-it on the search warrant saying "file tomorrow." A good reporter will send a camera crew to the area. A bad one will publish the story.

From what I saw of BREAKING BAD, accuracy was always sacrificed for drama. That's always a choice one can make, but this forum is for accuracy.

Jim Clark-Dawe

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 05:10 AM
The evidence to convince the bad guys are the same no matter what. It's going to have to be fairly convincing. And for most bad guys, the go-to response would be offing the blackmailer.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-25-2016, 05:16 AM
Okay thanks. But even if the cops are getting a warrant for later, and the media publishes it, wouldn't the villains assume that the police could still be monitoring the sight, till they get one?

If the go to response was offing the blackmailer, the are precautions taken though. The blackmailer could put a letter in the mail box of one of the suspect's home (the one suspect that got media attention, and is therefore known to the public, but was not proven guilty). The suspect can then read the letter, from the 'blackmailer' giving his payment demands to stay silent. The meeting place to give the blackmailer the money, can be a public place. And if the blackmailer does not show up, this puts the suspects into more of a panic to get them to go move the evidence.

So would the officer be really in that much danger, if the gang does not have to actually see him, necessarily? What if the officer was a bit gung-ho as in mine, and kept saying he will do it, and accepts the risks as worth it?

rugcat
04-25-2016, 05:26 AM
From what I saw of BREAKING BAD, accuracy was always sacrificed for drama. That's always a choice one can make, but this forum is for accuracy. That didn't seem to hurt its popularity. Nor did it affect the numerous Emmys it won including for best writing.

ironpony
04-25-2016, 05:38 AM
That's true. I mean not every story is completely accurate on all levels I guess. I watched the movie The Departed for example, and in that movie, getting closer to the end:

SPOILER


The police are monitoring a drug deal, and after the drugs are brought out and exchanged, the police run in and go to arrest everyone, which leads to a big shootout. In real life, I read that the police do not do this, and that they wait for all the drug dealers and gangsters to go their separate ways and all go home, and then arrest them with search warrants to get all the evidence they took with them.

This is a safety thing, so the police do not have to take on 30 gunmen all at once, and can handle it all separately in situations where the suspects would be less prepared to kill.

But the movie ignored this reality in favor of drama i guess it would seem. I'm just using that as an example, that maybe it's a matter of give and take, and it's good to do the research still so you know how everything works.

jclarkdawe
04-25-2016, 05:53 AM
There's nothing wrong with sacrificing accuracy for drama. But it does help to know when you're doing it and why.

I've seen video of prison shankings that even when you know what is happening, you can't see it. Killing someone in a crowd is not that difficult. In some ways, it's easier to do in a crowd than in a more private setting. But officer safety is not something I know that much about.

Bad guys are jumpy. They're going to be very cautious of anyone being around. Bad guys are stupid. They'll be in car chases and forget about the helicopter overhead and think they're in the clear because they don't see a cruiser.Bad guys are arrogant. They think they're smarter than the cops.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-25-2016, 06:35 AM
Okay thanks. Well I would like to research more about the facts, before finalizing such a plan for the police. It seems to me that from what I have researched that this is how I interpret fifth amendment rights, when it comes to admitting evidence.

It's illegal for the police to get a crook to incriminate himself intentionally, such as blackmailing or torturing a crook into doing so. But if a suspect is tricked into ACCIDENTALLY incriminating himself without realizing he is doing so, then it seems to be okay in a lot of cases. Would this be accurate?