1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Would this be a violation of rights to privacy laws?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Ryan Elder, May 16, 2016.

    For my story, at the scene of a crime, the police find shoeprints. Someone said I might have a plot hole, saying why didn't the police check records all around the city, for anyone who could have purchased those shoes within the last couple of years, when that style of shoes were being sold.

    But can the police do that legally? Can they check the sales records of every customer who could have bought those shoes, or does that violate some sort or rights to privacy laws? And even if they could do that, could the police be allowed to survey every one of those people who bought those shoes to see if any one of them is the perp?
     
  2. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ummm, I think that they can do that legally because receipts are property of the store, and we don't sign anything protecting them. Now, would they? I highly doubt it. It would be exceptionally difficult to try to find that information. First of all, in the unlikely event that a store still had all of that information, that doesn't mean the sale is tied to someone's name and not simply the last four digits of a credit card number and an item number, assuming they didn't pay in cash. Even if the last four digits of the credit card number was tied to a name on the receipt, that doesn't mean they weren't purchased as a gift.

    Am I following you correctly in assuming that the "records" the police would be looking for all over the city are receipts from stores where the shoes were sold? Because that would be not only a stretch, but a gigantic leap for the reader to try and find a plot hole. The only time I'm aware of shoe prints indicating someone was at the scene of a crime are when they have a suspect who owns the same pair of shoes, but not in a case where they have no suspects. In that situation, they'd simply keep the shoe print photos as evidence to compare to future suspects, no?
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Yep they would keep the shoeprint photos. I don't know if the suspect would keep the same shoes though to use in every crime. He would probably get new shoes per crime I am guessing. Or maybe not.

    But I was told that it was a possible plot hole as to why the police never explored that option, and ignore it.
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless the shoes are VERY special and distinctive, it's likely that in any city there will be tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of pairs of them. So how much police time is going to have to be spent getting all the names (assuming, as @No-Name Slob points out, it wasn't a cash purchase) of shoe-owners? And then eliminating all but one of the shoe-owners from the investigation. And then breaking down in tears when you find that the one suspect left doesn't have the shoes any more, because (he says) he lost them when he left them on the bus on his way home from the store.

    You could use any of the above as justification for why the police don't follow it up. Or you could use the "lost trainers" story to put another road-block in the way of the police.

    As far as "can they do it legally", there was a high-profile abduction & murder near where I was working, and the police commandeered all our clock-card records to check whether anybody had an absence that fitted with the timetable for the crime. So, sales receipts? No-brainer.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh okay, I thought that since the sales receipts were banking information, it may violate rights to privacy laws, unless you can get a warrant of course. But I guess it's not a plot hole then, since like you said, it would take way too much time, and could very well not go anywhere.
     

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