Sunday, March 22, 2015

Appearing in issue #13, March 30, 2015


I'm posting this early as I'll be out of town next week.

Title:  Leaky alibis

By Author:  John M. Floyd

  

Tag line:     Sheriff Jones and Angela Potts were on the trail of the killer who’d wronged Mr. Wright…

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones.

The gist:    Yesterday someone had shot Alderman Wyatt in his office at City Hall.  He had had no appointments for the time around his death and no evidence was left at the scene according to the Crime Scene techs.   No strangers were seen in the area and no one heard anything unusual except one gunshot at around 2:00 in the afternoon. 

Sheriff Jones suspected one of three people.  Bernard was the HR manager who had an office on the third floor across the street in the courthouse.  Bernard’s wife, Deb, was having an affair with Alderman Wyatt.  The second suspect was Attorney Miller who was hot-headed and was the father of Alderman Wyatt’s wife.  The third suspect was the wronged wife herself, Melissa.  Melissa was a circuit clerk who had an office on the ground floor of the courthouse.

Alderman Wyatt and Deb thought their affair was a secret, but most everyone in this small town knew about it.  Two of the suspects did not have good alibis.   Attorney Miller had left a Rotary Club meeting at 1:50.  The meeting location was only one block away, giving him enough time to get to Alderman Wyatt’s office by two.  Wife Melissa had no witnesses to confirm her claim that she had been alone working in her office at the time of the murder.  Melissa claims that she had eaten lunch and then went straight to the HR manager’s office for a meeting.

The third suspect, Bernard the HR manager, had an assistant that backed up his alibi saying he was in his office all day, and in fact skipped lunch.  The assistant told police that she remembered Melissa arriving there at around 2:10 o’clock because she had an appointment about an HR matter. The assistant said she was sure of the time because Melissa had put down her very wet umbrella right next to some papers and they all got wet.  Those documents were being picked up very shortly, so the assistant had her eye on the clock while she reprinted them.  Melissa’s meeting lasted for about twenty minutes.

Sheriff Jones noted that it had rained very hard yesterday between noon and four.  When Ms. Potts asked about security cameras, Jones said there was none in the municipal government building, and that there was no budget for cameras there, unlike the federal buildings.

Mrs. Potts knew who had killed the alderman.

Crime scene:    Alderman Wyatt’s office.

Clues:    The rain.

Suspects:   The HR manager, the wife’s father Attorney Miller, or the wife Melissa.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   The wife, Melissa, was the killer.  Her office was in the same building as the HR manger.  She claimed she left her office and went directly to the HR meeting.  She had no need to go outside in the rain, yet her umbrella was wet.  Her husband’s office was across the street.

My two cents:    The tag line was cute, as was the title.

This story worked on all levels.  The police work was good.  John covered the security camera angle. There was motive.  It was well written and the pacing was crisp.  Mrs. Potts and Sheriff Jones worked well together.  In this story he had stopped by her house for a piece of pie and they were talking about yesterday’s murder. Although not police protocol, in this small town these two characters do that often, and she usually sees things that he misses.  The clue was handled very well and slipped in in pieces. First you were told where her office was when the suspects were being discussed.  Later you learned that she had an appointment with the HR manager and was there around the time of the murder.  Then you heard about her ruining some papers with her wet umbrella.  

Nice job, Mr. Floyd. Probably the best clue I’ve read in a long time.

Five stars.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Appearing in issue #12, March 23, 2015


Title:  Kidnapped!

By Author:  Kendra Yoder

 NO STARS.

Tag line:   Sergeant Miller could only hope the victim was sharp enough to outwit the kidnapper!  

Police characters:   Sgt. Miller, Officer Polasky

The gist:    The alleged victim was the college-aged son of Doc Brennan.  The police had received tips with regard to a vehicle description and a partial license plate and had identified the kidnapper as TJ Johnson, a ne-er-do-well.  TJs address was a small cabin in the woods that he had inherited two months prior.  The ransom note demanded $10,000 to be wired to an offshore bank account by midnight or “they” would knock off the kid.

When police arrived at the cabin, it appeared to be empty.  Thinking that the kidnappers fled the scene with the victim, and knowing there wasn’t much in the way of gas or food nearby, Sgt. Miller figured TJ would stop in one of the nearest towns, which would take them either north or south about 40 miles.

At the cabin Sgt. Miller noticed fresh tire tracks.  He decided to inspect the cabin looking for clues.  Inside the cabin was a mess with dirty soda cups and crumpled burger wrappers.  Sgt. Miller figured there’d be lots of fingerprints but he wasn’t too concerned, as he already had fingered TJ.   There was a mattress in one bedroom with chains connected to overhead water pipes.  This is where Sgt. Miller figured ‘they’ kept the victim.  A piece of white caught Sgt. Miller’s eye.  Under the mattress he found a monogrammed handkerchief with the initials CJB, the initials of the victim.  Sgt. Miller figured the victim left the police a clue.  There was no food in that room, but there was a deck of playing cards on the bed.  Off to the side, separate from the rest of the deck, were five cards of various suits neatly placed in a row: 3-5-10-7-3.   Officer Polasky figured it was a zip code but since zip codes only have 5 digits and phone numbers have 7, Sgt. Miller was stumped.   But only for a moment.  After viewing the cards from different angles, he knew where the kidnappers were headed.

Crime scene:    Unknown from where this kid was grabbed.  Unknown who had seen it or reported it.

Clues:    The cards.

Suspects:   Only TJ.  Yet… the story refers in several places to kidnappers and ‘they’.

Red herrings:   Perhaps the mention of an off-shore bank account would lead the reader to believe the son, who attends Princeton, might have faked his own kidnapping.  This could be a red herring, but I’m of the opinion that this wasn’t intentionally done.

Solution:  Viewing the cards upside down they spelled Eloise.  Lake Eloise was up the road.

My two cents:    Problems.  We’ve got problems. 

There were a lot of inconsistencies in this one.  Is it one kidnapper or more than one? The story started out with the police looking to pin this on TJ, but very shortly started referring to ‘kidnappers’ and ‘they’.   

If TJ kidnapped this kid, why did he chain him to the bed in his own cabin if he planned to hit the road and take him to Lake Eloise?   

Sgt. Miller figured as there was no food or gas around they must be headed to a larger area that had those resources.  If you were going to kidnap somebody and run wouldn’t you have a full tank of gas and some food for yourself?  Maybe he/they planned to stop at the side of the road and eat bark.  My point is they wouldn’t necessarily be heading towards the food/gas area.  They might be headed to a remote area where they were going to camp.

 There wasn’t food or gas around for 40 miles, yet the place is littered with burger wrappers.  That’s a long way to drive for a Big Mac.

The boy has a monogrammed handkerchief?  What kid do you know carries that around?  Maybe his grandpa would, but no college kid would.  The author needed a clue…she put one in.  But it’s not remotely believable.

There was nothing at all in the room but there was a deck of cards.  How convenient.  How did the victim get to handle the cards with his hands chained to the pipes over the bed?  With his toes?

This bum TJ has an off-shore bank account? 

Sgt. Miller saw fresh tires tracks, but no mention of footprints which might tell him how many people were involved. Okay… maybe there were none.  Maybe they hopped straight from the cabin into the car.

The police can’t enter the cabin without a search warrant, which can be obtained very quickly in a situation like this.

Officer Polasky thought the 6-digits were a zip code.  Lord save me from dumbasses.

So, let’s get to the star rating.  The clue?  Not believable in the manner it was presented.  Motive?  None mentioned.  I supposed money.  Like always.   Police work?  Not the brightest bulbs in the history of law enforcement.  Whatever clues they found in the cabin can’t be used in court.  These two officers are a defense attorney’s wet dream.   Character believability?  You have been reading my comments, right?  Pacing and good writing?   Not this time.  This one missed the mark.  This was a mess.  For the first time I want to give a story a minus star rating. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


6 Questions Writers Ask about Copyright and the Law

By: Chuck Sambuchino | March 11, 2015

     (Column by Chuck as well as WD co-editor Brian Klems. Please note that these guidelines below, while helpful, should not take the place of formal legal advice. We are editors, not attorneys.)

Imagine you’re at a writers’ conference. You’re getting ready to pitch that great novel idea to a bunch of powerful agents. As you walk up to the microphone, you start to notice all the other writers in the room staring, pens and pads in their hands. That’s when the questions start flooding your head. Should you have secured a copyright before spilling your idea like this? Will other writers steal your concept? Can they do that? Will the agents ignore your pitch because the book title comes from a Billy Joel song? Don’t panic—a little paranoia is almost expected. It’s natural for you to want to protect your work from others. Along with protecting your work from pilferers, you also have to protect yourself from being sued for legal infringement. As you compose your work and enter into the publishing world, it’s vital to know how to navigate the murky waters of copyrights, libel and other contractual small print. Here’s the scoop on some commonly asked questions about copyrights and other rights.

Do I need to register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office to hold a copyright on the work?

No. Your work is copyrighted the moment it hits a tangible medium—everything from your scribbles on a piece of paper to your musings on your Internet blog are protected. Putting the word “Copyright” or the copyright symbol at the front of your text is optional. Using the Copyright symbol on your manuscript is a topic of contention, though, as agents and editors see it as the sign of an amateur—because they obviously know your work is protected. Try to avoid inserting the symbol or the word “Copyright” when querying agents and editors, but remember to use it when passing your work around—such as to untrusted peers, other writers or on public forums (i.e., the Internet).

To sum up, your work is copyrighted the moment you write it. Getting it registered in DC gives it something else — a “super copyright,” if you will.

So since I do not need to “super copyright” my work to have basic protection, is there any real incentive to doing so?

It depends on who you ask. If you ask us, it’s not worth it. (Your publisher will copyright the work when it gets published.) If you ask a lawyer, they would say Heck yes, because that’s what lawyers do.

Though it’s not mandatory, formally registering your work will certainly help your cause in court should that scenario occur. If someone plagiarizes your work and you take the thief to court, the possible compensation and damages awarded to you are greater if your work is registered.

Our basic advice is this: If you’re really interested in keeping your work safe, worry less about copyrights, and worry more about where you’re pasting your work for all to see. Do not put the work out in a place where you feel its unsafe. Remember: Agents and editors don’t steal stuff; writers steal stuff.

I’ve heard that if I mail a copy of the printed work to myself, that proves copyright. Is that true?

“Poor man’s copyright” is a questionably effective tactic where you mail yourself a manuscript and never open the envelope, thereby “proving” that you had written your work by a specific date. This is what the U.S. Copyright Office said about the idea: “The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a ‘poor man’s copyright.’ There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”

Nowadays, it’s cheaper and easier to simply e-mail the work to yourself, which you should be doing 1) for copyright protection, and 2) just to back up your own work. Although this process does not take the place of an official copyright (a “super copyright”), like the U.S Copyright Office confirmed, but it can indeed prove when exactly your words were written, and that may be valuable ammunition in a legal battle.

Does a copyright protect ideas?

No. Let’s say you write a sci-fi story about a soldier who battles aliens on the moons of Neptune. Your idea—or concept—cannot be copyrighted, and therefore, can be used by anyone. If someone wants to try their hand at the same basic premise (soldier, aliens, Neptune), they may, but they can’t use your characters, dialogue or passages from your text. If specific things from your story are stolen or copied, you can sue—but just because someone ripped off your basic concept doesn’t make them culpable.

What are the legal ramifications of reproducing song lyrics in a manuscript? Also, can I use a song title as the title of my book?

Song lyrics are copyrighted, which means you need permission to use them. Although there isn’t any specific law about how much you can take under fair use, it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission for even one line of a song. Publishers will usually assist in securing necessary permissions for you during the publishing process.

Differently, song and book titles of any kind generally aren’t copyrightable—the only exception being those rare titles subject to trademark or unfair competition laws. Titles that fall in this small category are closely tied to a specific artist. (Think “Yellow Submarine” or “Stairway to Heaven.”)

In a work of fiction, what restrictions exist on using the names of professional sports teams, TV networks or real people?

If your character is a Dodgers fan that watches CNN and walks past Rupert Murdoch on the street, you generally won’t have lawyers calling for your head. You can use these well known proper names in your text as long as you don’t intentionally try to harm the reputation of that person or product.

Normally you won’t catch much grief for writing neutral or positive words about real people, places and things. It’s the negative press you provide that could be considered trade libel or commercial disparagement—both ugly phrases that could cost you plenty of cash in a court of law.

 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Appearing in issue #11, March 16, 2015


Title:  Sore loser

By Author:  Phyllis Whitfield

  

Tag line:   Who had been to tee’d off at  Birdie Harris the he’d used the golf pro’s own club to kill him?

Police characters:   Detective Bea Smart

The gist:    The ME pronounced Birdie dead at the victim’s home.  Cause of death was a blow to the head.  Time of death was about one hour ago.  It appeared that Birdie, a golf pro, had come outside to practice on his putting green when someone struck him.  Birdie’s expensive golf bag and clubs were beside the body.  Birdie’s caddy Frank, found the body.  Frank called Russell, Birdie’s manager, and Russell called 911. 

A neighbor told police she had heard Birdie and Russell arguing loudly yesterday over a contract.   Russell told police he had been at Birdie’s the day before but it was to try out  the new club Birdie had purchased two days ago, which he thought was overpriced and overrated.   He claims they did have a loud discussion about Birdie buying a golf course that Russell thought was in such a bad location he figured it must be a scam.

The caddy, Frank, said he had been tending to his sick father all week and just got back.  He claimed that Birdie had e-mailed him last night and invited him to drop by this morning to see a new swing he had developed with his new club.  When he arrived, Frank claimed he found Birdie dead.  He told police the only enemy he knew of was a newcomer to the golf world named JR Wright who was jealous of the prize money Birdie often won.

A heavy-set man interrupted the police investigation by stomping across the lawn and demanding to know why the police were there and where was Birdie?  The man, Peter, claimed he and Birdie golfed almost daily and that he and Birdie had a game scheduled at the club this morning.   When told Birdie was dead, Lang said they had just played yesterday and he had tried out the new golf club, which he didn’t like very much. 

The police took the golf bag and clubs back to the lab for fingerprint analysis.   All three men told police they would find their fingerprints on those clubs.   The golf club was determined to indeed be the murder weapon.  When the FP analysis was done crime scene found four sets of prints: the victim’s, manager Russell, golf buddy Lang, and caddy Frank.

Detective Bea knew who the killer was.

Crime scene:    Golf pro’s yard.

Clues:    The new golf club, who had touched it and when.

Suspects:  Russell, Lang, or Frank.

Red herrings:    This so-called enemy JR Wright.  In fact the title of this story alludes to him.

Solution:  Frank, the caddy, was the killer.  If he had been away for a week, how could his fingerprints be on the club unless he used it to kill Birdie.  When questioned, Frank told police Birdie had planned on firing him and hiring a new caddy.  Frank became enraged and struck his employer with the fatal blow.

My two cents:    Bea Smart?  ((groans))

Okay, let’s see.  Police work, my favorite thing, first.   Most of it was very good.  The only slip was when Lang came stomping across the yard.  A murder crime scene is taped off, security officers are stationed at the door, and people can’t come walking into a crime scene. The ME is there, crime scene is there.  Realistically Lang wouldn’t have made it past the front door.  But that’s pretty minor.  I won’t deduct the police-work star for that little slip because the rest was properly executed, but I wish an officer had brought the man back.

There was motive.  There was a good clue. 

The story mostly read well and the pacing was good.  The only clumsy spot for me was when Lang was told about his friend being dead he carried on about trying out that new golf club and now much he didn’t like it.  It doesn’t seem likely that it would be the first few things out of his mouth.  I wish the author had slipped in how his fingerprints could have been on that club in a more realistic way.  I have to deduct one star for character work.  Lang’s reaction was not believable nor was that section well written.

The other characters were well defined and developed.  Except the detective’s name.  That was a little corny, but that’s a matter of taste.

I have to give this story 4 stars. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Appearing in issue #9, March 2, 2015


Title:  Catch me if you can

By Author:  John M. Floyd

 

Tag line:    Angela Potts wanted to know the whole story about Lizzie Martin’s kidnapping!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones

The gist:    Sheriff Jones’s niece is engaged to a criminal with a past record who is now linked to a kidnapping.  Lizzie, the victim, went jogging Wednesday night and never came back.  Security cameras at her building confirm she did not return home, nor did anyone else enter her apartment. Lizzie made the ransom call herself to her parents saying that her abductor had her at gunpoint and demanded two hundred thousand dollars to be left in a bag at midnight on Friday at Highway 8 and Cypress Road where there is nothing but swamp and woods, a hard area to stake out.

 Lizzie’s shoe was found in her parents’ mailbox.   It was a shoe that only Lizzie could have had since her parents ran a boutique and had just gotten them in exclusively in their store and Lizzie had taken a pair for herself before they were even put out for sale.  The she had a note that read, “Just to prove it’s her.” The note was signed COD, which made Sheriff Jones, whiz cop that he is, to think it was from Clayton Owen Darrow, his niece’s fiancĂ©.  Clayton had dated Lizzie for almost a year and according to Lizzie’s mother Clayton was pretty distraught when Lizzie dumped him.  But a few months later he began dating Jones’s niece.

When the police tried to find Clayton to speak to him they learned he was conveniently up in the hills fishing, a spot with no cell reception.   Jones’s niece said Clayton was innocent and that he dumped Lizzie, not the other way around.

Mrs. Potts believed Lizzie faked her own kidnapping in order to get money from her rich parents so she could run away from them, and at the same time get to blame the guy who jilted her.

What does Ms. Potts see that Sheriff Jones doesn’t?

Crime scene:    Unknown.  Kidnapping on a street.

Clues:    The shoe in the mailbox.

Suspects:   Clayton or Lizzie.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   If Liz had been abducted while jogging she wouldn’t have been wearing an expensive heel.  Her apartment didn’t record anyone coming to her apartment so the ‘kidnapper’ couldn’t have gone in to acquire the shoe after the fact.  

My two cents:    I’m not going to bore you with a long rant on police work and the fact that Sheriff Jones blabs about his cases to a civilian, he’s an idiot who never does a decent or proper investigation, yada-yada-yada.  Waste of my breath.  (Minus 1 star for police work.)

Sheriff Jones is still quite unlikable with his whining and long faces and dejected manner.  I’d like to just slap him.  Hard.   (Minus 1 star for character development.  There was none.)

The clue was hinky.   Nowhere in the story did it say the shoe in the mailbox was a fancy high heel.  It said it came from her parents’ boutique, that it was expensive and exclusive, and that Lizzie had grabbed herself a pair before they even went on sale.  They could have been pricy running shoes.  (Minus 1 star for bad or misleading clue.)  I’m not even sure why the ‘kidnapper’ had to ‘prove it was her’ with the shoe in the first place.  Didn’t Lizzie call her parents and tell them she had been kidnapped?  Duh.

This story actually read well and the pacing was good, and there was a believable motive earning this story 2 stars.

Angela Potts is being mentioned in the tag line now.  I guess she’s the draw for these stories.  Go figure.  At least she wasn't mean to him.  In fact, she was rather tame in this story. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Appearing in issue #10, March 9, 2015


Title:  Family ties

By Author:  Emma Courtice

 

Tag line:    The detective was looking for a sign that would put her on track to find the murderer!

Police characters:   Detective Marie DeLuca

The gist:    The butler was acting odd; giddy almost, sitting in a chair smoking a cigar and waving around a large snifter of brandy.   He was complaining that the death of Uncle Dunbar, his employer, was going to leave him without work and he was annoyed. Portly nephew, Donald, told the butler to button up, that the uncle never liked him anyway.  Nephew #2, David, responded back that uncle never liked Donald either.

On the day of his death Dunbar had been working in his library.  He had had no appointments and no one had called.  The two nephews had arrived late in the afternoon and found him slumped in his chair with a letter opener lodged in his chest.  The two nephews were the only ones that had keys and could bypass the butler to enter the home.

Donald blamed the butler, saying Dunbar was going to leave him something in his will. The butler said the amount he was going to be left wasn’t much, and that Dunbar was worth more to him alive than dead.   He added that that fact wasn’t true of either of the nephews.

David said he had come to call on his uncle because he needed him to sign a loan for his failing business. He produced a sealed, stamped envelope to the detective.  When opened by crime scene it revealed a loan agreement with a blank line where the uncle was to sign.

Donald told police that his uncle had lent him some money several months back and he had come to pay him back.  He showed the police a wad of money that he withdrew from his pocket.

Detective DeLuca knew who had killed Uncle Dunbar.

 Crime scene:    Uncle Dunbar’s residence.

Clues:    None that could be discerned from the body of the story.

Suspects:  The butler, Donald, or David.

Red herrings:    The butler was acting odd.  Was he trying to cover up his guilt with strange behavior?  He was in the will but said it wasn’t for a large amount.  What is ‘a large amount’ to him?  This was left unanswered to throw the reader off.

Solution:  David, who had come for the loan, was the killer.  Uncle Dunbar had refused to sign the loan and while David stood at his desk Dunbar had made a show of folding the unsigned papers, sealing the envelope, stamping it and handing it back to David.  Furious, David stabbed his uncle then arranged to find the body with his brother later on.

My two cents:    Good grief.  Anything else the author wants to leave out?  How can the reader ‘solve-it’ when the story doesn’t have the needed details?  This is not hiding a clue, this is misleading by leaving information out. 

The fact that the envelope was sealed and had a stamp on it wasn’t a clue in my eyes.  Who was it addressed to?  David could have planned on sending the papers to his uncle but instead decided to visit him in person and brought the envelope with him.

This story was poorly executed.  The police work was off, as the detective was interviewing everyone together. This is not done.  She announced to everyone that it was murder.  Not done.  They opened the envelope in front of everyone.  Not done.  The crime scene tech opened the envelope and read it and decided what it was and announced it in front of the detective who was assigned to the case.  Not done.

There was motive.  The usual motive; money.  

Not much was included in the way of character development. Both nephews were overweight, both were irritated, both had money problems.  ((yawn)).  The only entertaining character was the butler.

 The pacing was off.  A few rather long sections of info and a few parts that were too short.  Way too much in the beginning about the butler (although it was the best part of the story).  Way too much to-do about the crime scene tech opening the letter.  The rest of the story was fed to us in quick spurts, almost as if it didn’t matter.  

Donald, David, Dunbar.  Nuff said?  One star.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Book ‘em, Dano.

Booking records provide information about the people who are brought to jail. Because booking creates an official arrest record, arrested suspects who can post bail immediately often can’t be released until after the booking process is complete. Even suspects who receive citations in lieu of being taken to jail often must go through a booking process within a few days of their arrest.

How Long Does Booking Take?

At its slowest, the booking process may take hours to complete. How long it takes depends on how many of the standard booking procedures are conducted (explained below), the number of arrestees being booked at the same time, and the number of police officers involved in the booking process.

Typical Steps in the Booking Process

Step 1: Recording the suspect’s name and the crime for which the suspect was arrested

In olden days, this information became part of a handwritten police blotter; now virtually all booking records are computerized.

Step 2: Taking a "mug shot"

Mug shots have a variety of possible uses. For instance, a mug shot can help to determine which of two people with the same name was arrested. A mug shot can also help to establish a suspect’s physical condition at the time of arrest. The suspect’s physical condition at arrest can be relevant to a claim of police use of unlawful force or to whether the suspect had been in an altercation before being arrested.

Step 3: Taking the suspect’s clothing and personal property into police custody

At a suspect’s request, some booking officers allow suspects to keep small personal items like a wristwatch. Any articles taken from the suspect must be returned upon release from jail, unless they constitute contraband or evidence of a crime.

Step 4: Taking fingerprints

Fingerprints are a standard part of a booking record, and are typically entered into a nationwide database maintained by the FBI and accessible to most local, state, and federal police agencies. Comparing fingerprints left at the scene of a crime to those already in the database helps police officers identify perpetrators of crimes. Most likely these will consist of black ink and a print card.  More modern police departments may have a print scanner, a device that electronically scans the print and saves the data.

Step 5: Conducting a full body search

Police officers routinely make cursory pat-down inspections at the time of arrest. Far more intrusive (and to many people, deeply humiliating) is the strip search that is often part of the booking process. To prevent weapons and drugs from entering a jail, booking officers frequently require arrestees to remove all their clothing and submit to a full body search.

Strip searches are legal even when the arrestee has been brought in for a relatively minor crime, such as an infraction; and even when there are no facts that would suggest that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband. In a 2012 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such a search was legitimate even in the case of a person who was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested for failure to pay an outstanding fine (the fine had in fact been paid long ago).  (Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945.)

Step 6: Checking for warrants

The booking officer checks to see if an arrestee has any other charges pending, ranging from unpaid parking tickets to murder charges in other states. Suspects with warrants pending are normally not released on bail.

Step 7: Health screening

To protect the health and safety of jail officials and other inmates, the booking process may include X-rays (to detect tuberculosis) and blood tests (to detect sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and AIDS).

Step 8: Eliciting information relevant to incarceration conditions

To reduce the likelihood of violence and injuries, jail officials often ask arrestees about gang affiliations, former gang affiliations, and other outside relationships. Depending on the answers, an inmate may have to be placed in protective custody or housed in one section of a jail rather than another. Routine questioning along these lines does not constitute an “interrogation” that requires officers to give a Miranda warning to the suspect. Information that suspects disclose in response to a booking officer’s questions may be admissible in evidence under the “routine booking question exception” to Miranda. (Pennsylvania v. Muniz, U.S. Sup. Ct. (1990).

Step 9: DNA sample

Suspects may be required to provide DNA samples that are entered in national DNA databases.

This information was excerpted from The Criminal Law Handbook, by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D.