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Gathering Evidence against Another Family Member

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  • Gathering Evidence against Another Family Member

    Let's say, after a recent blood test, one family member suspects they are being poisoned by another family member. Is it possible that the police would give them hidden cameras to place in the home in the kitchen to try and catch the poisoner? (Let's say the suspect rarely leaves the house, and they don't want to tip them off). Or would they tell the original family to get their own cameras and come back when there's proof? Just curious how it would play out. Thanks in advance!



  • #2
    If the police tell them to do something, then they become agents of the police and all laws apply, plus liabilities.

    What they do ON THEIR OWN can usually be used in court.
    Now go home and get your shine box!

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      Oohhh! Then that will work even better! I wasn't sure if they could use footage from a family member.

      Can I piggyback on that question? Let's say the family member finds a bottle of poison in a locked cabinet (presumably with the suspect's fingerprints on it) and the family member uses a gloved hand to put that into a baggie, can the police take that as evidence too? Or would the police have to come get that themselves?

  • #3
    They can receive it as evidence, they will need to document how and who they got it from.
    Now go home and get your shine box!

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      Okay, cool. This will work out nicely for my story. Thank you!

  • #4
    Originally posted by Suspense Writer View Post
    Let's say, after a recent blood test, one family member suspects they are being poisoned by another family member. Is it possible that the police would give them hidden cameras to place in the home in the kitchen to try and catch the poisoner? (Let's say the suspect rarely leaves the house, and they don't want to tip them off). Or would they tell the original family to get their own cameras and come back when there's proof? Just curious how it would play out. Thanks in advance!

    Being a bit of a computer nerd as well as a railroad geek, let me suggest that you Google "Synology Surveillance Station Evidence Integrity Authenticator." This is an optional feature available for Synology's popular NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices which cryptographically signs video streams from widely available and inexpensive IP cameras and which can authenticate that a video recording has not been tampered with since it was created if its veracity is challenged in court. One of those little tidbits which might add some verisimilitude.

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow! I will do that. Thank you for the idea. What if they used a RING camera that has the feature that the recordings are stored by the company? Would that also work for authenticity?
      Last edited by Suspense Writer; 09-09-2020, 07:32 PM. Reason: Added a question...

    • ehbowen
      ehbowen commented
      Editing a comment
      I haven't used RING; I prefer to keep my data on my own hardware in my own home. A Synology 2-bay NAS device with the Surveillance Station capability is not all that expensive (just looked it up: A DS218play with 2 4TB drives is just under $440 at B&H) and with it you get the capability to continuously record 2 cameras [more with an add-on purchased license] and store more than a month's worth of HD video, plus you get a hell of a multimedia and file/backup server.

  • #5
    Setting up their own cameras prior to contacting police makes the most sense. Think along the lines of "nanny cams". The footage is frequently used as evidence in child abuse cases, and sometimes employee theft. Some states prohibit the use of AUDIO recordings under wiretapping laws, but I believe most (all?) states allow VIDEO recordings. So be sure for it to be a video-only camera.

    Of course any defense attorney will question the authenticity of the recording, but I suspect that challenge is rarely successful. Not to mention that once confronted with video evidence, most suspects are likely to confess to their crimes (or at least come up with a BS explanation for what is seen on the footage, rather than denying its authenticity).

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      All good points. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  • #6
    RING is a realistic Scenario, or a BLINK for indoor use.
    Now go home and get your shine box!

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the info! Btw, RING has indoor and outdoor options. I happen to have RING at home, so I'm familiar with the cell phone settings regarding notifications (so it'll be more realistic in my novel when she turns the notifications "off" when the family member is being taped unknowingly. Bwahahahaha....).

  • #7
    Can you name the suspected family member Alice, as a favor to me?


    What does not kill you will likely try again.

    Comment


    • Suspense Writer
      Suspense Writer commented
      Editing a comment
      LOL - I'm 90K in the story so I can't change her name now, but I love this idea and will slip it in there somewhere, just for you! ;-) My MC loves 80's heavy metal.

  • #8
    ALSO...I'm reposting a follow-up question I asked earlier, but maybe no one saw:
      • Can I piggyback on that question? Let's say the family member finds a bottle of poison in a locked cabinet (presumably with the suspect's fingerprints on it) and the family member uses a gloved hand to put that into a baggie, can the police take that as evidence too? Or would the police have to come get that themselves?

    Comment


    • #9
      I already answered that for you.
      Now go home and get your shine box!

      Comment


      • Suspense Writer
        Suspense Writer commented
        Editing a comment
        Duh! I'm so sorry! (*Must have missed it somehow when I scrolled the second time). Thank you again!

    • #10
      Let's say the family member finds a bottle of poison in a locked cabinet (presumably with the suspect's fingerprints on it) and the family member uses a gloved hand to put that into a baggie, can the police take that as evidence too?
      CCCSD is correct in that as long as a private person is acting on their own, they have few restrictions... but they are restricted by law. Breaking and entering to gather evidence is still breaking and entering. Once they begin to cooperate with the police, they face the same restrictions as the police... and if a crime was committed to obtain the evidence, and the police don't take enforcement action, the defense will argue that the civilian investigator was already working for them and the evidence should be suppressed.

      The problem with your scenario is that, while the police may be able to take the bottle into evidence and take a statement from the citizen about how they came to posses it, there is no chain of custody before the police take possession. Your citizen X SAYS they it it from a cabinet in person Y's house... but did they really?

      If victim A was poisoned with cyanide and informant X gives police a bottle of cyanide they say they found at suspect Y's house... doesn't that make informant X a suspect? He's the one with the bottle of cyanide. Nobody ever saw it at suspect Y's house except him.

      The only time this type of evidence is useful is when it's in a place that the informant has a right to be... a parent finds drugs in their kid's bedroom, calls the police and the police arrive to find a baggie of meth on top of the dresser where Mom found it in the sock drawer.... AND the suspect explicitly or implicitly admits ownership. Son comes home, finds Mom and the cops in his bedroom and starts screaming at Mom for going thru his things, instead of denying the meth is his.

      The other way this kind of evidence is useful is when it's part of a non-criminal investigation that becomes criminal. An accountant is doing a routine audit and finds not just minor accounting errors but evidence of embezzlement, and the CEO decides to call the cops. The investigation can be tracked from the point it started up to the point the cops take over, and there's no reason to believe the initial civilian investigator is involved in the crime.
      "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

      "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

      Comment


      • Suspense Writer
        Suspense Writer commented
        Editing a comment
        Ah...makes sense! In my scenario, it is an adult child who lives with her mother and finds something suspicious in her own home. But lots of great info here for suspense writers in other scenarios. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    • #11
      Fingerprints on things are your friends...
      Now go home and get your shine box!

      Comment


      • #12
        Originally posted by CCCSD View Post
        Fingerprints on things are your friends...
        They can help, but all they really prove is that a particular person touched a particular thing at some point in the past. It's still not the same as a police officer saying they found the bottle of cyanide in the suspect's house.

        Suspect could say that they had the rat poison but it went missing 6 months ago. They thought their spouse threw it out.

        ...and plenty of things don't get fingerprints.
        "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

        "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

        Comment


        • Suspense Writer
          Suspense Writer commented
          Editing a comment
          All so true. Unlike the police, writers can manipulate the story details to work in our favor. ;-)

        • tanksoldier
          tanksoldier commented
          Editing a comment
          True,and frankly that's part of the problem we're having right now... the public's perception of what the police are and do based on movies and TV. Most police work is incredibly boring. Most trials are excruciatingly boring... even serious ones like murder. Everybody knows exactly what is going to happen, exactly what each witness will say, exactly what evidence will be presented... the defense will insult the coroner (because he's only an EMT not a physician), the coroner will point out the autopsy was performed by Dr. Piled Higher and Deeper... etc, etc...

      • #13
        Yep. Hence my statement: it puts paws on evidence. That’s a huge bite. Can’t deny it.

        They can deny the rat poison, but they can get testimony that supports it. It’s all about presentation to a jury. WHO is more believable.

        Thats how trials work.
        Now go home and get your shine box!

        Comment


        • #14
          Also keep in mind that the VAST majority of criminal cases never go to trial. Most criminal convictions are the result of plea agreements. This is especially true in cases with physical evidence (such as a suspect's fingerprints on a bottle of poison). Unless there is strong exculpatory evidence (beyond the defendant's assertion of innocence), a defense attorney will not take his or her chances with a jury.

          Comment


          • Suspense Writer
            Suspense Writer commented
            Editing a comment
            Great - it's a lot faster to wrap things up in a novel if the suspect is confronted with the evidence and admits his guilt. :-) I understand that the reality of criminal cases is vastly different than in a novel, but we're in the suspense fiction business, not the criminal business. So we try to make it as plausible as possible, but at the same time not forsaking our first and foremost goal: a great read. // But I really do appreciate everyone's help here in being authentic. Naturally I can't divulge all of my story details here because that's my "money ticket" - finding something unique that no one has done. Other writers might read these threads and I don't want to give too much away.

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