Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Posts Tagged ‘Crime Scenes’

Answering Writer’s Question About Police Detectives, PIs and Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on December 14, 2011

Today we’re answering a writer’s question about private investigators, police detectives and crime scenes.

Writer’s Question: Who has the authority to authorize a PI to work with a detective on a crime scene? What is the procedure to do this?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Cops are very territorial about crime scenes. This is cross-examination they do not want to hear: “Detective, you let an amateur who is not certified as a peace officer traipse through the crime scene, touch evidence, disturb clues…all under minimal supervision?” In other words, a defense attorney would have a field day learning a cop/s allowed a PI onto an active crime scene to work with the police.

However, saying that, there could be extraordinary circumstances where law enforcement would allow a PI to work alongside detectives in an active crime scene. For example, if the PI was working for the victim’s family, or if the PI had some special technical skill or forensics knowledge that would benefit the police investigation. Most certainly, under these special circumstances, the PI would be more likely allowed to work with the police if the PI had been previously employed as law enforcement.

What might the procedure be? It’s really the PI obtaining permission from law enforcement personnel or their supervisor, depending on that law enforcement department’s procedures.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Cold Case Squad Blog: A Homicide Investigators’ Portal

Posted by Writing PIs on July 21, 2011

We’ve recently gotten to know Joseph Giacalone, veteran NYPD detective sergeant and commanding officer of their Cold Case Squad, which has investigated hundreds of homicides, cold cases and missing persons. Joe is also the author of the Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators published by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.

Whether you’re a writer, researcher, investigator or simply curious about cold cases and how they’re investigated and solved, this blog is for you.  The blog also promotes public awareness about the missing, investigative tips, and guests posts such as “The Art of Lying” by a lawyer with expertise in criminology.

Today, the Cold Case Squad hosts a guest post by the Writing PIs, your hosts at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, where we write about a cold case that took us to the vast, cold high plains during winter to find what others hadn’t been able to find: 4 slugs on 800 acres of ranch land. The placement of those slugs could prove that a man was innocent…

Check out our guest post “Cold Case: Bullets in the Field” by clicking here.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in Cold Case: Bullets in the Field | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How a Private Investigator Might Process a Crime Scene

Posted by Writing PIs on May 22, 2011


A criminal defense attorney might ask a private investigator to critique the processing of a crime scene, or a private investigator might conduct her own crime scene processing for a client. You’d be surprised the evidence that can be found days, weeks, even months after law enforcement has closed the crime scene for their investigations.

The basic steps an investigator follows, including law enforcement investigators, typically include the following:

  1. Check the condition of any victims and arrange medical treatment if necessary.
  2. Secure and protect the crime scene. Keep in mind the possibility this crime scene might be the first in a series of crime scenes.
  3. Determine if further search is legal. If yes, the private investigator must obtain consent from the investigating authority or property owner, such as law enforcement or a landlord. If the investigator is a law enforcement officer, he obtains a search warrant from a local judge.
  4. Search, sketch, and document. Precise measurements of the crime scene include an accurate sketch containing a key, a scale and a legend noting the day, time, location and weather conditions.  It is also useful to document compass directions on the sketch. Also, if documenting the crime scene via photographs or video, it is useful to film dimensions – height, width and length — with a measuring tape.
  5. Document the crime scene and its physical evidence. In law enforcement, a videographer typically accompanies an assigned officer on the initial walk-through of a crime scene. Similarly, a private investigator can document the crime scene layout with photographs or video. It is  important to take close-up photographs of important items of evidence, such as footwear or impressions of objects.
  6. Handle the evidence so as to not contaminate it. Such precautions include wearing latex gloves and inserting evidence into plastic baggies.
  7. Collect, mark and catalogue evidence.
  8. Preserve the evidence in a central, organized location, such as a locked closet. 
Have a good weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Private Eyes Handling Crime Scenes | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Answering Writers’ Questions: How Long Does an Area Remain a Crime Scene?

Posted by Writing PIs on April 9, 2011

Writer’s Question: Is there a time frame that an area remains a crime scene? I’m picturing the yellow caution tape in a public place and wondering how long that remains up.  What kind of time frame might apply to a crime scene in a residence (for example, if someone is found dead in a family room, how long do the residents of the house need to stay out of the room?) I’m thinking that from the time the police leave to when a PI shows up, a lot could happen in that room if a family member so desires.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: A police crime scene excludes all but those who are trained to respect procedures for preservation and collection of evidence.  Generally speaking, after a period of approximately 1-24 hours, the area is returned to normal use.

Regarding a crime scene in a residence, specifically (per your question) a dead body found therein: Be mindful that police will remove those parts of the family room that they consider important evidence (for example, blood-stained carpeting and drywall spattered with blood).  Also, police will photograph/videotape the family room in the exact state in which they found it.  In other words, by the time the family returns and changes anything, the PI will have copies of police photographs as well as access to physical evidence that’s within police custody.  There are certainly instances where PIs would still seek access to the home (for example, to photograph the layout, measurements, etc.) but that is accomplished through court order or consent of the victim’s family.

Writing PIs

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When a PI Might Be Involved with a Homicide Investigation

Posted by Writing PIs on July 13, 2010

This article is now available in How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook.

Posted in Homicide investigations, PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on When a PI Might Be Involved with a Homicide Investigation

How Does DNA Get to a Crime Scene?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 27, 2009

Article now available in How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook.

Posted in DNA Crime Scene, PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Answering Writers’ Questions about PIs: Crime Scenes, Naming Sources

Posted by Writing PIs on October 13, 2009

Sherlock

This post, we’re answering writers’ questions about crime scenes and naming sources.

Crime Scenes

Writer’s Question:  Is there a time frame that an area remains a crime scene? I’m picturing the yellow caution tape in a public place and wondering how long that remains up.  What kind of time frame might apply to a crime scene in a residence (for example, if someone is found dead in a family room, how long do the residents of the house need to stay out of the room?)  I’m thinking that from the time the police leave to when a PI shows up, a lot could happen in that room if a family member so desires.

Guns Gams and Gumshoes’s Answer::  A police crime scene excludes all but those who are trained to respect procedures for preservation and collection of evidence.  Generally speaking, after a period of approximately 1-24 hours, the area is returned to normal use.

Regarding a crime scene in a residence, specifically (per your question) a dead body found therein: Be mindful that police will remove those parts of the family room that they consider important evidence (for example, blood-stained carpeting and drywall spattered with blood).  Also, police will photograph/videotape the family room in the exact state in which they found it.  In other words, by the time the family returns and changes anything, the PI will have copies of police photographs as well as access to physical evidence that’s within police custody.  There are certainly instances where PIs would still seek access to the home (for example, to photograph the layout, measurements, etc.) but that is accomplished through court order or consent of the victim’s family.

Naming Sources

Writer’s Question: Do PIs always need to name their sources? You know how reporters don’t need to name theirs?

Guns Gams and Gumshoes’s Answer: PIs working for attorneys cannot reveal sources without the attorney’s permission. If a PI isn’t working for an attorney, and there is no state statute protecting the PI (for instance, some state statutes create a legal privilege ensuring confidentiality for PIs and their investigative sources), then the PI can be ordered by the court to reveal her source. Under these circumstances, if a PI is on the stand and she refuses to identify how she obtained said information (the source), she could be held in contempt of court and jailed (similar to what’s happened to reporters).

holmes silhouette

October 19-26, 2009: We’re teaching Crime Scenes, Homicides, & DNA at www.writingprivateinvestigators.com.  Class blurb below:

Crime Scenes, Homicides, & DNA: An introduction to crime scenes and homicide investigations (topics include key tasks covered by law enforcement, a general introduction to estimating time of death and types of wounds, and how a PI might be called upon to aid in a homicide investigation). Class concludes with a discussion of DNA, its testing, how it might be deposited by a suspect, and how it’s used in court proceedings. One week, 2 classes, questions answered by email in-between.

Posted in Q&As | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Private Eyes and Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on August 10, 2009

This article is now available in How Do Private Eyes Do That?available on Kindle.

Posted in Private Eyes and Crime Scenes | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Private Eyes and Crime Scenes

 
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