1. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Police Procedure Questions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ManOrAstroMan, Jun 18, 2012.

    Hey, all! The novel I'm working on, while mostly an urban fantasy, is also something of a mystery/thriller. While I've got all the magic worked out, and have found some good info on the city of Seattle (where it takes place), but there are a few things that are hanging me up. At first, I was all set to just plow on ahead and fix the details later, but I realized that police procedure is going to effect my timeline and several other aspects of my story, even though my MC isn't a cop or a private investigator. (He's really not even a typical "amateur sleuth." Mostly, he gets sucked into the investigation by circumstances beyond his control. But I digress...)
    If there's anyone here who has had to do similar research on law enforcement for their own work, or--preferably--either has worked/currently works in law enforcement, I would be VERY grateful for your input on these points:

    1) if a murder victim has no living relatives, can a friend claim the body for funeral preparations?
    2) about how long does it take to collect forensic evidence from a body?
    3) about how long is the body kept? just until all evidence is collected? or until the end of the investigation?
    4) would every person interviewed by the police have to fill out a formal statement? Would they have to do that at the station?
    5) if a person lived in one town, but was killed in another city in another county, how does that affect the investigation?

    That's really all the questions I can think of right now, but I know I'll have more. Again, if anyone with some real solid knowledge of law enforcement can help me out, I would be ecstatic. Thanks!
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't know much about police procedure, but perhaps I could add my insight.

    1) I imagine each city would have it's own laws regarding this. So you could probably get away with anything that sounds reasonable.
    2) Don't really know much about this one, so maybe someone with more knowledge could shed some light here. On the TV shows, it seems like they can get the evidence collected in a few hours but I bet it's not like that in the real world.
    3) Same situation as 2) . But my guess is that they would release the body after they collect the important evidence. But you might have some stubborn cop that wants to hold onto it for longer for whatever reason... and seeing as the person isn't actually family, they could probably get away with keeping him longer if they wanted. That being said, if they were fine with giving up the body, I don't see why they couldn't release it after collecting evidence from it.
    4) I would think not. I think where the whole "statement" thing came from is when you have a crime with like 4-5 witnesses/suspects and so you get them to write down their statement so that you have it on file what they said at the time. Surely someone being interviewed like 1 day after the crime and asking them a few questions wouldn't necessarily need an official statement. Again, my guess is that if it's something detailed with a lot of facts... that's when they would probably rather have something on paper than counting on the memory of the person giving the interview.
    5) Again, I must admit my lack of experience. I think how it works is where the person gets killed is who conducts the investigation. If there is a connection with other crimes from the city, perhaps they can be allowed to take over the case. The seems to be a legal question to some degree because for some crimes I would think you can't be prosecuted in one county for a crime that happens in another. That being said... murder is pretty much illegal in any state so you probably could prosecute someone for killing a man in one city for murder that happened in another. And as for who gets to investigate... usually it's just whoever wants the case the most and can conjure up the most political clout to get the case.
     
  3. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    I'm a bit of a know it all from watching Discovery channel for years. I have no experience or education in policing, but here's my answers.

    1 - I think its unlikely, maybe impossible, that somebody would have zero living relatives. No matter their age, they must have a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a nephew, a sister in-law, or something. Now to answer your question, yes, even a girlfriend can 'claim' the body, and organize a funeral. Its unfathomable there would be some kind of dispute between two parties over the body, they would likely work together on the arrangements

    Another thing I would like to add is the story of a man from Baltimore. There was an old drug addict in Baltimore who overdosed on crack and died. When they found his body, and contacted the family, nobody wanted anything to do with the man, because everybody strongly hated him. He didn't have any money to his name, so they took him to the morgue and cremated his body. What did they do with the ashes? THEY PUT THEM IN A GIANT ZIPLOC BAGGIE, and were eventually claimed. That is not one word of a lie.

    2 - There was a murder a few months ago in my city, and a 'forensics truck' basically an RV converted to do police work was at the scene for two days. After two days the truck left, and the yellow tape was gone.

    3 - Until an autopsy is complete. As soon as the police know cause of death it can be buried/cremated/blasted into space, whatever. It would certainly not be kept until the end of an investigation, but, bodies have been exhumed (dug up from the ground) if the court believes evidence was missed during the initial investigation.

    4 - A witness would either write a statement, or give a recorded interview, or both. This is so a court has tangible evidence straight from a witnesses mouth.

    5- People killed abroad? Given were talking about 2 developed countries, the embassy of the person killed would be contacted. There is very little, potentially nothing, the authorities in the deceased country of origin could do, other than provide information.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1) if a murder victim has no living relatives, can a friend claim the body for funeral preparations?
    ...not usually... the only exception i can think of would be if the deceased had left a legally accepted document giving the friend authorization to act as 'next of kin'...

    2) about how long does it take to collect forensic evidence from a body?
    ...there's no set limit... could be hours, or could be days, depending on how busy the ME, crime scene investigators and police are at the time...

    3) about how long is the body kept? just until all evidence is collected? or until the end of the investigation?
    ...ditto above re time limit... decision is case by case...

    4) would every person interviewed by the police have to fill out a formal statement? Would they have to do that at the station?
    ...no... it depends on how they're connected to the incident... some would be questioned at the scene and not be needed any further, some questioned in their home or workplace later, some asked to come in and make a statement... again, it's a case by case matter with no 'standard' practice...

    5) if a person lived in one town, but was killed in another city in another county, how does that affect the investigation?
    ...the police departments/sheriff/state police would cooperate with each other in whatever manner was necessary... again, on a case by case basis...

    [cog... he asked about another 'county' not 'country']
     

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