Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PSP Citizen's Police Academy: Week 5

Crime Codes and Use of Force

By Annette Dashofy

The first half of week #5 was dedicated to the crime codes. The book dealing with the topic makes War and Peace look like a brochure, so we skimmed through most of them. But a few sparked further discussion. Here are some of the notes I took:

A sexual assault victim’s body is the crime scene. As such, they shouldn’t change clothes or wash, but should go to the hospital where the staff is trained to handle such things and can collect evidence.

The difference between “robbery” and “burglary” is ROBBERY is when someone is in the house or if there is forced used; BURGLARY is when no one is home at the time of the break-in.

Unlocked cars are a great target. It’s amazing what people leave in their vehicles in plain sight—cell phones, wallets, purses, packages, etc. Think about it. Do you leave your car in the driveway, unlocked, with your garage door opener inside? A thief can take your garage door opener and gain access to your house. Most people don’t lock the door between the garage and their house, so that garage door opener is all they need.

The technical term for credit card fraud is “Access device fraud.”

With regards to identity theft, video surveillance is great for the police. So many transactions are now recorded. It’s a terrific aid to catching someone using a stolen credit card. By the way, if you suspect your credit card numbers or identification has fallen into the wrong hands, you should immediately contact the three credit bureaus and have them red flag your accounts in case anyone tries to open MORE accounts in your name. Identity thefts have been targeting senior citizens. Make sure your parents and grandparents know to NEVER give out any information over the phone. And finally, do take advantage of getting your free credit reports. You can receive three separate reports annually. All FREE!

One final question came up during the discussion. A fellow CPA student asked, “How do you develop a thick skin to deal with child endangerment cases?” The response was, “You have to become the voice of the child.”

The second half of class was led by Trooper Frank Murphy of the crime unit who discussed Use of Force.

The first thing he did was point out the sign in the class room which reads: Probable Cause: A set of facts and circumstances that would induce a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that a particular person has committed a specific crime.

Trooper Murphy wanted us to take special note of the words REASONABLY INTELLIGENT and PRUDENT.

A citizen is allowed to use whatever force necessary IF the citizen (you or me) believes they are in danger of serious bodily injury, of losing their life, of being raped, or of being kidnapped. The police are allowed to use whatever force necessary under those same situations, but also to protect others.

A police officer may use the minimum amount of force necessary to affect an arrest.

Some scary thoughts: there are virtually no more fist fights in schools. Guys use guns. Girls use knives or razor blades. New cops coming on the job today have a 100% chance of getting into a gunfight at sometime in their career (provided they stick with the job). The population is becoming more violent and more willing to use deadly force faster.

According to the Castle Doctrine, if you are in your home and someone forcibly enters it, you don’t have to retreat (however, if you can, you should). You do have to be able to justify why you stayed (refer back to the REASONABLY INTELLIGENT and PRUDENT part). This doesn’t just refer to your home, but also applies if you’re camping or at your place of employment. You can use the force necessary to stop an action. IMPORTANT NOTE: it’s not to kill. It’s to stop an action.

Whatever you do, you must be able to articulate WHY you took the action you did to a D.A. and to a jury.

If you find yourself in such a position has having had to use deadly force to stop an intruder, there are three sentences you should be prepared to use when the police arrive:

1. “Officer, thank God you’re here” (Shows you aren’t the bad guy.)
2. “I was in fear for my life.”
3. “With all due respect, I want to talk to my attorney.”

Personally, I hope I never have to use them.

Next time: Firearms Safety and the Firearms Simulator!


Ramona said...

Annette, good stuff. The answer, "You have to become the voice of the child," sounds like a writer's line.

This post reminds me of my one and only cop joke.

Person of Interest: "You can't search my car."
State Trooper: "Why not?"
Person of Interest: "You don't have any probably because."

Gina said...

I'm so jealous, Annette. Sounds like a great course.

I don't practice criminal law, but to the best of my recollection, the main difference between robbery and burglary is that robbery involves taking something by force - it can happen anywhere - and burglary is an unauthorized entry into property with the intent to commit a crime therein. The crime doesn't have to be theft.

Are you sure the sign said "Probably cause"? The term is usually "probable cause."

Annette said...

Nothing like being nailed on a typo first thing in the morning. Okay, Gina, I fixed it. PROBABLE cause. As for robbery and burglary, I'm just passing along my notes. And I've just spotted another typo, which I'm off to fix.

Gee, who proofreads my stuff??? Oh, that would be me.

Joyce Tremel said...

Ah, memories...

The sad thing is I still remember a lot of the PA crimes code sections. Burglary is 3502, criminal trespass is 3503, theft is 3921. OK, I'll quit now.

Gina's explanation of robbery vs. burglary is good. Burglary is just unlawful entry. There doesn't have to be a theft. It can even be through an unlocked door--there doesn't have to be force. There only has to be an intent to commit a crime. A few good examples of robbery would be a bank hold-up, a stick up on the street, or a home invasion.

One more thing. To get your free credit reports, DON'T use (the one advertised on TV). They will sign you up for a monthly service that costs you money. Instead use

Nice post, Annette!

Annette said...

Excellent explanation, Joyce. Thanks for clearing that up.

And, yes, you don't want to have to pay for those FREE credit reports.

Laurie said...

Great post, Annette! Really informative. You're getting quite the education at the PSP CPA. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Hey Annette, good read. It looks like other have already chimed in here.

I've been co-teaching a class on plotting the almost perfect murder for mystery writers. We do it for continuing education here at the local community college.

One of my co-teachers is an undercover detective. He brought a few things to my attention on the last class which was only a week ago.

Your notes about the difference in robbery and burglary is something we talked in depth about. If you're talking about your home, the robbery equivalent is home invasion, which is scary and on the rise. He explained that most burglars (at least the sucessful ones) are "professionals." They make sure nobody is home. They don't really want to do physical harm to people.

Home Invasion is done by more ruthless, bold criminals. They don't care if people are home and will likely harm/kill people if they are home.

His take on the protecting yourself in your home: if they cross your threshold, shoot 'em. Now I think the laws on some of that change from state to state.

Karen in Ohio said...

Lots of good info here!

When I was in Police Science classes, one of our instructors explained that any unlawful entry in the "night season" is also called burglary. That term sticks in my mind over the last four decades, for some reason. Home invasion was not yet a term used in law enforcement, at least in Ohio, but the difference is chilling, Wil.