1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is their a way to get around this fourth amendment law for my plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 3, 2016.

    In my story, I want the MC to get evidence on the villains, but I cannot find a way for them to do it, that would be admissible in court.

    Basically my story follows the structure that a lot of crime thrillers do, where one cop believes something different than all the rest, believes the villains are still out there, so he goes out on his own, to catch the real bad guys, and prove everyone else wrong.

    The only problem is, is I do not know how to do this where the MC can still come up with admissible evidence. I have done a lot of research and have asked many legal experts, but the law is so well covered in this area, that I cannot seem to find any loopholes for a cop to work around.

    Since I am writing a screenplay, I am into movies, and tend to use those as examples, if that's okay. One that comes to mind is The Negotiator (1998). In that movie, the MC is a cop who is framed for murder, and then breaks the law in order to get evidence, such as illegal search and seizure, without a warrant to get it. Perhaps he was able to work around the law, cause he was a framed fugitive?

    What if my MC frames himself for one of the murders the villain gets away with, and then he uses this framed fugitive exception to the rule, to search and seize evidence of the real crimes without warrants, and is therefore able to legally get admissible evidence, which the other cops were not?

    Or is framing himself for murder not the way to go, and there is a simpler, easier way? Is there?
     
  2. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    Let's hope not. If there were plausible 'loopholes' that the cops could use to 'work around' our Fourth Amendment rights, you can bet that they would be doing so. I'd say that you're stuck with the real world, and need to find a way to tell your story while observing the legal realities, in the same way we science fiction writers have to observe the laws of physics.
     
  3. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    It depends on the severity of the villain. A run of the mill crime of passion murderer? Absolutely not. A terrorist? Absolutely.
     
  4. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Does illegal search and seizure apply to regular citizens? If not, he could get kicked off the force somehow and then be able to go rogue without ruining the case. Seems like I've heard of this, or perhaps seen it done before, but I don't know if it's a real thing.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It only applies to government. The Constitution is a restraint on government. A private party can't violate your first amendment rights, for example.
     
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  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks.

    I researched this as well, but this would still count as inadmissible, because he came to know about the case through his police work, so it legally would not fly either.
     
  7. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    That makes sense. Not to mention he'd probably have quite a rap sheet of his own by the time he was done acquiring his evidence, like breaking and entering.
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Yeah true... Do you think that maybe since he cannot get around the fourth amendment laws to make a case, that he should kill the villains to get justice, and make it look like police self defense, or try to get away with it, successfully? I saw successfully, I cause I was planning on leaving the story open for a sequel, or the possibility of being a series.

    In order for the MC to kill them though, and make it look like a justifiable police situation, he would have to get the entire gang to come after him and make it look like the gang came to where he was, such as his house or in a public place, or something.

    If he goes to any of the buildings or property where the gang are and kills all of them, this will be very tricky to make look justifiable. Like maybe he could break into the gang leader's office building, to steal some files, the gang finds out and comes to stop him with force, and he kills all of the gang members.

    But then he tells the police that just because he broke into an office to steal some files, that doesn't give the gang the right to come after him with gun, and try to kill him... so he killed them all in self defense therefore.

    I mean is that a good enough story for him to get away with, killing them, if he cannot get around the fourth amendment to make a case to have them indicted for any of their crimes?
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Sorry my post, posted twice, so I erased it.
     
  10. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    Self-defense is usually an acceptable excuse for violent crimes, but it gets tricky (as you mentioned) when the defender themselves seems shady in any way or might have a motive for murder. In your cop's case, he would have murdered several people after breaking into their private property, and (presumably) vocalizing his belief that the villains hadn't been caught an punished/desire for justice. That's not a good look, and it wouldn't be entirely realistic to pass it off as a regular self-defense case even if you point out that breaking-and-entering doesn't negate self-preservation. I suspect a jury wouldn't go for that excuse and your cop, even if he got no significant jail time, wouldn't escape without a tarnished reputation.

    A better option (if you don't want your cop to lose status/freedom/job) might be a set-up. I think we've all seen it in cop shows: the cop acquires some valuable information about a gang/person through whatever shady methods he can, then sets up the gang using that information. This deflects responsibility from the cop while successfully resolving the cop's desire for justice and leaving options open for a sequel (will the gang members or anyone else ever find out the cop set them up? will they go to prison quietly, or escape/commit more crimes in prison and possibly become some recurring threat?).
     
  11. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    I've noticed in my short time here that you keep citing movies as examples of the very thing you are asking us if it is okay to do.

    All you need to worry about is the extent to which the reader can suspend their disbelief. You set the degree of realism based on the tone and the internal logic of your world.

    For example, if you want your MC to be able to obtain evidence that they cannot legally obtain, as the author, you have the power to place all the players in exactly the right position to grant the MC access to the evidence without getting caught. You need someone to look away at just the right time, you have the power to make that happen. You're the author!

    Even if the methods seem "unrealistic", so long as it follows the story's internal logic the reader will happily suspend their disbelief.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks.

    As for the idea of a setup, what do you mean by a setup? A sting operation on the cop's part? If the cop sets up the gang to incriminate themselves, the cop is not legally allowed to record it under the fourth amendment since he has no authorization, so any setup seems it would be legally useless therefore. Unless I am wrong?
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  13. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    He could plant evidence, genuine or not, in places. Two examples being, he finds a bloodstained knife with fingerprints on it, plants it in a trash can for a 'friend' to find. The other being he has a knife, coats it in sample blood from a victim, then places the blood at someone's house, then drops an anonymous tip.


    If he's certain of their guilt, and can't find a legitimate way to prove it, he can cause things to happen that lead up to a way to prove it. Lay a trap that they can't escape, make them vulnerable where they thought they were protected, cause them to stumble and trip and fall down in the spotlight.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
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  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well I suggested before that he takes the dead body from a shootout and plants the body to be found somewhere else, but I was told before, that this is too much trouble, and the cop wouldn't do something like that? Do you think so, with a dead body?
     
  15. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    I don't know your character, or your story, so I couldn't say. The thing you have to remember, is that when you write a story, you write a story. I know that sounds vague, but I will try to elaborate. When you write, you make a world, you design a setting, and you craft people that don't exist. The only person who can decide what they would or wouldn't do is you. Yeah, it might be a great deal of trouble to do in real life, but that doesn't mean your character wouldn't do it.

    Having said that, I'd probably take the gun from the shootout and plant it, rather than the body. Or both. He's your character, how far in would he go? Would he be subtle, would he be over the top? Would he compromise himself like that in the name of justice? You know those answers. Maybe, as another suggestion, think outside of the box of the artefacts from the murder. Maybe he has someone he knows who could attempt to blackmail the villain in their 'safe place' over the crime, and the criminal reacts in an incriminating fashion. He could say something he shouldn't, or flat out attempt to kill the person, maybe even succeed if you want to be dark about it. You know your characters, what could set them off, anger them, push them past the point of reason or caring.


    Edit: Also, I don't know if you've ever had to carry someone when they're dead weight. It's really not easy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  16. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I actually thought of both methods, planting evidence and blackmailing the villain. However, the fourth amendment still gets in the way of those.

    If evidence is to be planted, the police still cannot search the villain's property, cause they have no legal grounds to get a warrant still. If the villain is to be blackmailed that he would react in an incriminating fashion, the police would still need a search warrant to catch him incriminating himself, or they would need to get wire tap orders, to bug him to get evidence. The police cannot get warrants or wire tap orders either way, so planting evidence, or tricking the villain into incriminating themselves, doesn't do anything, if the police still cannot legally search or record it.

    This is why I cannot get around this fourth amendment problem.

    I know it's my story and I have the power to make what I want to happen, happen... but if the fourth amendment is so air tight with no loopholes in my research, that the police cannot not even competently frame someone nowadays, the what do you do for the story. I cannot change the way the law is written plausibly, and I think that's the much bigger problem over the characters' actions.
     
  17. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    If a civilian is doing the blackmailing, it isn't related to law enforcement. At which point it just becomes a point of investigating shouting/screaming and stumbling (innocent face) on the act. It's like bending the rules rather than breaking them.
     
  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. However, the MC would be asking a civilian to do a big favor. It would probably have to be someone who will do it for him, such as a friend, family member, love interest, etc. He would be risking their lives and I am not sure, I see the MC doing that though.

    But even if he did, it could look suspicious to the police. The civilian doing the blackmailing, just so happens to be related, or acquainted to the rogue cop, who has the biggest grudge against the villains.

    Would the court not admit evidence, based on that 'coincidence'?
     

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