1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is their a way I can work around this legal problem for my story setting?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, Feb 5, 2016.

    I discovered a plot hole in my story that was overlooked before. After doing research, apparently in Canada (my story's setting), you are not allowed to record a conversation unless you are part of it. That makes sense.

    In my story, a cop is raped by a serial rapist/killer type of villain, he is pursuing, only to find himself being on of the victims later. After the villain gets away with it, the cop obsessively pursues him wanting justice for what was done to him.

    Now I wanted to write it so that the cop was following the villain around on his own time, but since he cannot record anything the villain says to incriminate himself to any of his associates, what can he do instead?

    I don't want the villain to have any more potential victims at this point. I would just like him to incriminate himself and be caught. But since the MC is not allowed to record anything what kind of evidence could he get?

    He cannot break into the villain's property to obtain anything either, since that's also illegal, so is their anything that my MC can do on his own, without warrants, since the villain is legally off the hook, and the prosecutor will not the help the MC?

    Perhaps there is something in the law that might work for my story idea?
     
  2. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Since conversations that the cop illegally recorded cannot be used as evidence in court, they instead have to be used as leads that the cop can leverage in finding evidence they can actually use. For example, if the cop has an illegally recorded conversation between two criminals saying they will break into a building on a certain day, then the criminals can be arrested in the act while they are inside the building, thus proving that they committed the crime using legal evidence. Although that could present problems if the defense attorney discovers that illegal evidence was leveraged in such a way.

    To see a good example of a detective novel where the main character pursues an illegal investigation, I recommend The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly. It's one of his Harry Bosch novels. In this case, the character is actually under suspension the whole time, making his investigation even more illegal.

     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Actually that does happen in my story. The main character finds out who committed a murder, but it cannot be used, cause he found out by using illegal short cuts. The court would have a problem with it being leveraged that way, I was told by a cop.

    But I wanted the recording specifically to be the ending, where the villains are finally caught. If not, then I will have to think of something else.

    It's hard to know where to draw the line though when it comes to legal accuracy. Some readers told me that they had a problem with me stretching things in the law, where as the cops I asked said all works of fiction are written to appeal to the audience, and not accurate.
     
  4. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Yeah. I suspect a cop would be more inclined to say "no detective novels are accurate anyway" than a real reader though, so I guess what's most important is to focus on are the errors that a reader would be more likely to notice. People who read a lot of detective novels would probably notice inadmissible evidence being accepted, particularly for things like illegal wire-taps, so I'd recommend finding a resolution to this particular issue.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you set it up so the other bad guy knows about the recording and consents? Not sure how you'd have to work that - maybe the two are rivals or something, maybe your hero gets something on the other bad guy and blackmails him... something...?
     
  6. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Depending on the particulars of the local laws, it might be legal for the hero to confront the antagonist about the crime and record the conversation. Also, she could make an illegal recording, use it to uncover credible evidence, then use the credible evidence to get a legal wire-tap that produces a legal recording.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I don't know if my villain would want to have a conversation with the hero directly though, because he would know the hero could be recording it perhaps. Maybe...

    As far as using the illegal recording to uncover credible evidence, the police are going to ask how the hero became aware of the evidence. If he said he recorded a conversation to find out, then the police will not accept the credible evidence, cause he had to commit a crime to get it. So he would have to lie.
     
  8. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    Another way to obtain a legal recording would be to convince someone that the villain trusts to wear a wire and confront the villain about it. I think this happened at the climax of season 2 of the TV series 24 for example.

    One common element in detective novels, though, is the blending of legal and illegal evidence into the story. The benefit of this from the standpoint of the writer is that it create extra tension. When the detective breaks into his suspect's house to look around and maybe plant a bug, he's not only putting himself in a lot of risk by potentially being caught, but will also be able to (usually) uncover a few useful clues. These clues won't be able to be used in court, which creates additional tension for the reader. Generally, you want to give your protagonist a hard time of things to keep the tension up. That means giving them evidence they can't use, that doesn't make sense, that is contradictory, etc. until it all finally falls into place at the climax of the story.

    If you don't want to go too much into the details of the legal process, you can always kill off the bad guy in a gunfight at the end. This is very common in detective novels, particularly the Harry Bosch series I mentioned. The benefits to this is that it wraps things up very neatly, and also makes it easier for the protagonist. If the villain is, for example, about to kill another victim when the main character saves the day, then there would not only be two witnesses (the cop and the victim), but it would be probably apparent from the circumstances that the villain was in the wrong (let's say, for example, he broke into the victim's apartment just before the hero showed up). And finally, the cops could search his home and find evidence of his previous murders. Serial killers -- at least the kind in detective novels -- tend to keep mementos of some kind lying around.

    Police departments tend to protect their own, so they wouldn't go out of their way to investigate the matter. The family might sue later, but they may or may not win, and even if they did, the city would be the one that would have to pay, not the main character personally.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh ya okay. Well there are no characters who are willing to betray the villain cause by the end, none of them are willing to cut a deal, for the climax I want, and they are all ready to take their own stand. I just don't want to create extra characters and would rather the hero solve the problem himself with no help, if that's okay.

    There was a character earlier who betrayed the villain. I could have him record the conversation earlier. He is killed, and then the MC takes the recording and takes off, so the villains cannot have it. But he realizes he cannot turn the recording in, because he obtained it from the dead traitor, under illegal circumstances, and it would be inadmissible.

    So he has to hold onto it till later, and plant it at the scene of the next encounter with the villain for the police to find, and wait for that to happen.

    But I was told by another writer, that this is redundant and I might as well have the MC kill the villains make it look like self defense, and that the evidence is not necessary, and just complicates it. Perhaps the other writer has a point?
     
  10. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Umm... excuse me, but...

    You do know the difference between "their," "there," and "they're," don't you?

    My eye keeps snagging on the title of your post. :)
     

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