1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Question about how the 'probable cause' law works when it comes to crime.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, May 12, 2016.

    For my story, I want a cop to stumble upon a 'blood in', while on duty. That's where the gang tests a new recruit to see if he/she has what it takes to get in, by spilling the blood of another person.

    While driving or perhaps walking while on duty, he glances into a secluded alleyway in the distance, and sees two men frisk another man for a wire and weapons.

    This makes him suspicious so he decides to spy on them and follow them to see where they are going. He follows them very discretely to a building, which they go inside. He looks around the building and finds a small window where, he can see into the basement, partially. He looks around in the small window and sees the kidnapped hostage, in the corner of the room.

    So he calls for back up. The villains have a police radio scanner, and they hear the call go out, so they escape, but cannot make it with the hostage, and leave her behind. The cop saves her, and manages to arrest one of them, while the others get away.

    However, the way he discovered the crime and initiated the bust... will it be admissible in court? In my research, I found out that in order for an officer to establish probable cause, the probable cause has to be immediately apparent. That is, it has to be in plain view immediately. However, this cop snooped around until he finds a small basement window.

    Cause naturally the villains are not going to do commit a blood in, in front of a big window in plain view for anyone to see.

    So does the cop have probable cause by seeing someone be frisked for a wire, in order to snoop around someone's property, till he finds the window?

    Or is does this not count as immediately apparent probable cause and the cop's testimony cannot be used in court, as a result, thereby the kidnapping suspect goes free?
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I put my hand upon you, I am committing the offence of Battery against you. If I threaten to put my hand upon you, and then do it, that's Assault and Battery. If I pull a button off your jacket, I'm committing Criminal Damage. If I knock my briefcase against your leg, and raise a bruise, I'm committing Actual Bodily Harm. Just standing outside a shop window and looking in could be Loitering with Intent!

    Somebody frisking another person is, Prima Facie, committing the offence of Battery = Probable Cause.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm surprised the cop doesn't call for backup sooner.
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Immediately apparent" in the case of probably cause simply means you can't break into someone's house for no reason and search it without a warrant. Looking through a window, even though he had to snoop a bit to find it, is considered "in plain sight" to me. No matter how long he looked, it's still a window.

    Hell, I saw a TV show once.. Two cops wanted inside a house, but the homeowner wouldn't give permission. So the cops looked at each other and said, "Do you hear that?" "Yeah, it sounds like someone screaming. We really should check it out." So they pushed past the homeowner and went inside. There was no screaming. But it was their word against the homeowners, and it got them inside.

    Sometimes you can fib a little in screenplays to make it more exciting. Personally, I don't think you're doing that here. It seems perfectly normal to me. But whether it's completely "by the book" or not, to me, this is a non-issue. Just write it that way.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well would the cop call for back up, just because he saw someone frisk someone for a wire, or would he wait to check things out more?
     
  6. MockingJD
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    MockingJD Member

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    When I first read the fact pattern my immediate thought was "impersonating a police officer" since the guy was frisking another guy. I think you're good.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I read about the probable cause law, and in order for it to be admissible in court, the probable cause has to be 'immediately apparent', which means the cop has to see in plain sight and cannot look around for it on private land. But there is something I do not understand.

    A cop cannot go up to to house and look into the basement window to see what's going on. If she spots a crime, and then calls it in, the evidence will not be admissible in court, because he trespassed on private land, by going up to the basement window and looking through it, in order to discover the crime.

    However, the cops are allowed to go up to the front door of a building and knock on the door, to ask questions. But what if the door is only a few feet away from the basement window? How far away does the door have to be from the window for it to count as 'trespassing'?
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If they're standing at the front door and can see right in the window and see the crime, it would very likely be held admissible because they're viewing the crime from a place they are allowed to be without a warrant or probable cause.
     
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  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    The crooks would not likely leave the front door window visible though. It's a kidnapping situation, so they would probably keep the hostage held in the basement or something like that, and the cop would have bend down to take peak into a basement window opening.

    But I was told that by some in my research that this would not hold up cause the probable cause is not 'immediately apparent' as the term was used.
     
  10. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    First, if he's gone so far as to start following someone, chances are he radioed in to let the Police department dispatch know what was going on.
    I.e.- Dispatch, this is patrol XX blah blah, be advised i'm (he'd say where he was and something around the lines of 3 males acting suspiciously).

    once he did this, other patrol officers in the general area wouldgravitate towards that area in case anything happened (a lot like white blood cells)

    So if these guys really were listening in, they'd probably know sooner, the plus side is, the sound of them trying to get the hell out of there might give him probable cause to break in.
     
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  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. That is what I was thinking too, they would hear it on the radio. However, they have a kidnap victim with them. If they kill her, then run away, the cops can find the dead body. They can take her with them, but keep alive, to not be caught with a dead body, but then have to get away with a hostage and deal with her later, after hopefully escaping the cops.

    Wouldn't the best solution for the villains be to wait inside the house? Since their is no immediately apparent probable cause of a crime, the police would have no right to go in, and not be able to get a warrant do so, right?

    So the kidnappers can wait in the house with the hostage, and then just wait for the cops to leave. So would them hearing it on the radio cause them to leave, or would they figure that they would stay since the police have no legal grounds to come into the house?
     
  12. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    People rarely think clearly under stress, and having someone tied up in the backroom and a cop at your door is definitely a stressful situation.

    Now, before you get into the realm of probable cause, there's this thing called 'reasonable suspicion'
    Reasonable suspicion is what lets cops pat down (also known as terry search) civilians.
    Reasonable suspicion was achieved when the cop noticed a few guys doing a pat down in the backallway

    Here's an example, a cop sees a guy on the side of the road, that doesn't mean he can pat him down. A cop sees a guy on the side of a road wearing a trench coat, during summer, and an area known for high crime, he can pat the shit out of that guy.

    Now reasonable suspicion can't get the cop into the house, but if he were in the house then it would help to hold up what he found in court (might not be a 100% chance, lawyers have a few tricks up their sleeves)
     
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  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the input. Can reasonable suspicion be enough for the cop to look through a small open basement window, if it can somehow not be 'trespassing'. He is not searching, just looking. But he is still on private land and the probable cause is not immediately apparent? So would reasonable suspicion be enough of a legal basis, for that?

    The case does not necessarily have to hold up in court for the story to work though, but I don't want all the evidence to be thrown out ENTIRELY, till there is a literal dead end, if that makes sense.

    Let's say the villains panic and leave the house though. They do not want to kill the hostage and leave a dead body behind for the cops to use against them later, and come up with a murder charge, that they may still be able to physically link to them. So would they take the hostage with them alive, and try to make a getaway, with her, so they can at least kill her somewhere, where no evidence of a murder would be found?
     
  14. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Where is the 'Small window' on the building? Is it on a public street? A back alley? Or someone's private home on a back stretch of country road? For that matter, what kind of building is it? Mansion? Apartment building? A Radioshack?

    Regardless, once he sees the guy being frisked, he has probable cause to follow them. Cops have been given the OK for less.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I was told by a couple of readers, that they would not believe that a cop would follow someone for this, because being frisked voluntarily is a not a crime as they put, nor it is enough for probable cause as oppose to reasonable suspicion; cause only witnessing evidence of an actual crime in progress is enough, or so I was told.

    As for what kind of building, I am not sure yet. Basically a gang is taking a new recruit to a building for a 'blood in'. That is where in order to prove himself to the gang, he has to spill the blood of another person. Gangs do this to weed out undercover cops, or so I read. However, if the new recruit happened to be an undercover cop, what kind of building would they take him to, do the blood in? If they took him to a building that is owned by one of them or is associated with one of them, that could mean that the blood in, can be traced back to them, should the cop turn out to be an undercover. In that case, would they do the blood in to a victim outside? Or would that be too possibly noticeable for someone to see?

    What is more risky? Doing the blood in, at a building or home that can be traced back to someone owning it, or associated with it? Or can it is doing it outdoors more risky, in a city outskirts type area that is?

    So far I wrote it so that the place the blood in is suppose to take place in, is a cabin outside of the city, owned by the kidnapped hostage.

    But is it dumb of them to use her place for it, since she knows the gang from before and could be possibly traced back to them, even though she is not close at all and has no record?
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2016
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know that reasonable suspicion quite works in this case. It extends beyond Terry searches, but I don't think it applies here.

    I think he might well follow them. He also might well look in the window. Why can't he just lie on the stand? Say he looked in because he heard something that led him to believe someone inside was in danger. If he says that, the judge would likely believe him.
     
  17. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    He could say that but is likely believe, enough of a reason to look into the window? I can write to so the cop calls for back up but does not search the house. However, if he believed that the kidnap victim was going to be harmed, could he say that he intervened cause he thought that a helpless hostage was in danger of being harmed? Or would the judge told him he should have waited to see if he could have gotten a search warrant, and if he couldn't have gotten one cause the reasonable suspicion was not immediately apparent, then he shouldn't have intervened at all, regardless if human life was at steak?
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No judge is going to say that he should have gotten a warrant if he had probable cause to believe a victim was being harmed or that a serious crime was underway. Those are exigent circumstances. Police do not have to wait for a warrant in that case.
     
  19. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    That's what I thought. But a cop I asked said that even though it's okay to go inside to save the victim, the charges might not stick cause the probable cause needs to be immediately apparent.
     

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