Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just Give Me Something to Blog About

By Joyce Tremel

It’s been an incredibly busy two weeks, so this blog entry will be very short. I was planning on writing about domestic violence but haven’t had the time to pull it all together.

Instead, I’m going to open this up for questions. What do you want to know about law enforcement? Investigations? Arrest procedure? Questions can be general, or related to the book you’re writing.

Ask me anything. I am at your service!

15 comments:

Nancy said...

Joyce, how long does it take to "lock down" a crime scene? A man is thrown from a balcony at the top of a large city office building. I want my sleuth to be snooping in the same office suite before it's officially closed down by the police. What do you think?

Joyce said...

Nancy, as soon as the police arrive and decide the death is suspicious, the area will be off limits. The patrolmen then call out a detective who begins the investigation, then the ME's office is called. Normally, it takes an hour or two for them to collect whatever evidence is there, then they open up the scene again. I've never seen it happen the way they portray it on TV, where the investigators keep going back to the scene. They have other things to do--they want to get out as quickly as possible.

You're sleuth would probably have to be at the scene before the cops get there. If the cops find her there, she's going to have a lot of explaining to do!

Meryl Neiman said...

How long does it take to run a DNA analysis? Is that something that can be expedited if desired? Does it vary lab by lab?

Joyce said...

Meryl, from what I've heard, it takes anywhere from six weeks to over a year, depending on the lab.
Even when we send blood for BAC results to the county lab, it takes about 4-6 weeks to get the results.

Most labs are grossly underfunded. (I think there is a mystery author-can't remember her name-who is active in something called the crime lab project to get more funding for labs.)

I've heard there are a lot of private labs popping up where you can get results faster if you're willing to pay for it.

I'm not sure what the turn-around time is for the FBI or if anything can be expedited. I would hope that if it was a serial killer or someone like that, they'd push the test to the top of the list.

Annette said...

At a crime scene, there is a lot of blood, but no bodies. There are three sources for the blood: a horse and two humans. I understand that the police could determine rather quickly that one of the sources was not human, but the sample would have to be sent to a special lab to determine the type of animal and for financial reasons, this may never be done...low priority. I have also been told that it may take quite some time to determine that there were TWO seperate human sources, which I find surprising because blood typing doesn't take that long, although DNA testing does. Is this correct, that they wouldn't be able to determine that there were one or two human blood "donors" for days or weeks? Would it be different if both victims had the same blood type vs. different blood types?

Cathy said...

This is great!

My protagonist is nearly strangled by her neighbor, who intended to kill her. The police are called, and they haul him off. How long can she expect him to be locked away? What happens between him being hauled away and hopefully long term incarceration?

Thanks, Joyce.

Joyce said...

Annette, that's correct. The crime scene techs would gather the blood evidence and it would be sent to the lab. Now if it was CSI, they'd figure it out immediately! With most crime labs, though, it might take a lot of time to just determine that one of the samples was not human. In real life, the samples get labeled,stuck in a refrigerator, and wait their turn. I don't think it would occur to the investigators that there might be two bodies at first--either until the lab gets around to testing, or two people are reported missing in the same area.

Cathy said...

One more thing--will the homicidal neighbor be out and about at any time during this process? Like out on bail, etc.

Joyce said...

Cathy, here's what would happen in Allgheny County. It would probably be hard to prove it was attempted homicide unless there was a history of violence or the police actually had to pull him off of her. He'd most likely be arrested for aggravated assault and terroristic threats (if her verbally threatened to kill).

He'd be taken back to the station where he'd be put in a holding cell while the officer types up his Criminal Complaint, which details why he was arrested. Then he'd either be taken to the county jail (if it was at night) or directly to a magistrate's office if it was during the day. There would be a hearing almost immediately, where he would be given bond or ordered to be jailed. If remanded to jail, he'd be taken downtown, either by 2 officers, or a couple of constables.

After that, there is a preliminary hearing before the magistrate, where the charges can be dismissed, reduced, or held for court. At this point, most offenders are released on some type of bond unless the crime is extremely violent.

The actual trial can occur much later.

btw, there are new rules a group of judges in PA came up with recently in regard to arrests. Unless the crime is one that puts people in danger, the police aren't permitted to physically arrest the person. They have to arrest them by mail. I'll do more on this ridiculous law later.

Joyce said...

I have to go run some errands now, but I'll be back after lunch. Keep the questions coming--I'm having fun!

Nancy said...

Thanks, Joyce!

And arrest by mail? Talk about a lack of drama!!

Tory said...

Joyce, when you write up your blog on domestic violence, I want to hear how officers are trained to handle the situation. I'm really curious about a police approach versus a mental health one. For example, are police given any mental health instruction?

Joyce said...

Tory, I'm not sure about the mental health training for the cops. Most of our guys have college degrees, but I'm not sure what the training at the academy is like. I think most of them do a pretty good job at being hard-assed when they have to and sympathetic when they have to. And most of our residents involved in domestics are well known to the officers. They've been to the houses many times for the same thing.

Joyce said...

I mentioned before about a rule change regarding arrests that was instituted by the superior court judges back in August.

I think most people know that for a summary offense (like disorderly conduct, harassment, public drunkenness, etc.) the officer gives the person a non-traffic citation and sends them on their way. The district court then sends them a summons to appear for a hearing.

Previously it was up to the officer's discretion to do this for certain misdemeanor offenses, like DUI, retail theft, possession, etc. Now they are REQUIRED to release the person and arrest them "by mail." The officer completes his criminal complaint and the magistrate sends out a summons. The only way the officer is allowed to make a physical arrest is if the person is a danger to himself or others, doesn't have an ID, or there is a doubt whether the person would appear for their hearing.

Most of the guys at work think it should have been left to the officer's discretion. We had a case of retail theft where the junkie they arrested kept going out and doing the same thing. He was busted three times in the same week for retail theft and the DA wouldn't let them take him to jail. And guess what? He never showed up for his hearing, so the judge had to issue an arrest warrant anyway!

The officers KNOW these people much better than any judges. It should be left up to the police.

Kristine said...

Wow, Joyce! You have officially become the Working Stiffs police expert. Thanks for answering our questions and sharing your knowledge. I've been taking lots and lots of notes.