Consultant for writers on crime, police, & court procedures.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


An asset for any police officer is the ability to know when someone is lying.  Sometimes lies can be revealed when a suspect contradicts himself or provides implausible explanations.  But one of the best ways to detect lies are nonverbal cues that reveal the stress accompanying deception.  Many aspects of our bodily functions and other physical behaviors are beyond our control.  We cannot keep out bodies from perspiring or slow down our pulse rate during physical exertion or moments of stress.  It is because most suspects cannot control these actions that these cues are such effective indicators of deception.
The physical behavioral indicators described below are just some of many.  They are highly effective in helping officers detect criminal activity and protect themselves from danger.  They go beyond the simple nervousness one might experience in a 'normal' encounter with an officer, such as a traffic violation.

NO-LOOK MANEUVER:  This signal occurs before the encounter ever takes place.  At an intersection, for example, a motorist absolutely refuses to look towards the officer.  An offender who has something to hide will resort to exaggerated effort to avoid direct eye contact with a police officer in a chance encounter.
RESTLESSNESS:  A high level of stress often causes a person to be very fidgety, shifting positions frequently, pacing, crossing and uncrossing arms.  A stressed person may also try to move away, attempting to increase their comfort zone in order to reduce the anxiety. 

FALSE FATIGUE:  Signs of fatigue may actually be efforts by the body to relieve stress.  Frequent yawning and sighing are good stress relievers in these circumstances. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"I've been robbed..."

"I've been robbed."

I started my career as a police dispatcher, answering emergency phone calls and routing officers to the scene.  When someone called to report a "robbery," my heart would skip a beat.  Robberies are violent. Dangerous. They usually involve firearms.  The police response is all-out.
Everyone knows the common definition of theft or larceny--taking something belonging to another--but it also includes any type of fraud, misrepresentation or deception.  One of the most interesting cases I worked as a young investigator many years ago involved a man selling TVs out of the trunk of his car in shopping center parking lots.  He would motion people over to his car with a story that he had a TV to sell--it was not the one he wanted but the store wouldn't take it back, so he was trying to sell it in order to buy the one he wanted.  He would partially open a box to show a TV wrapped in plastic and packed in Styrofoam.  People would buy the TVs and the guy would take off with the money.

When the buyer had a chance to unwrap it, he found a very old, worthless black & white TV that had been packaged to make it look new.  We finally caught up with him and charged him with theft.  He had defrauded the victims, which under our state law was a theft.

The important element to remember about burglary is that it requires an "unauthorized entry" into the premises.  The suspect has to unlawfully enter the business, home or other structure.  It is not necessary to "break in," only that the entry is without permission.  If I walk into Wal-Mart during business hours, I can't commit a burglary there because I did not make an unauthorized entry.

So the two essential elements of a burglary are:
(1) an unauthorized entry
(2) the intent to commit a theft or felony inside

It is not necessary to commit the theft or felony to have a burglary, only have the intent to do so.

A robbery is a theft in which the perpetrator uses force or the threat of force to take something in the immediate control of the victim.  If I snatch your wallet out of your hand, that is a robbery.  If I pretend to have a gun and demand all your money, that's a robbery.

Usually with felony charges like burglary and robbery, we don't add on misdemeanor charges.  It would just mean more paperwork and the misdemeanors will most likely be dropped by the D.A. anyway.  Many misdemeanors are "lesser and included crimes" to felonies, which means the defendant could not be found guilty of both.  For example, a suspect robs a convenience store of $50.  He cannot be convicted of theft and robbery because the theft is an essential element of the robbery charge.  It would be punishing twice for the same behavior.  The same holds true for breaking out a window to commit a burglary.  Only the burglary charge would be pursued, not a misdemeanor damage to property.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Award-winning author Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage in her readers through both fiction and nonfiction.  Check out here seven tips for bolstering your research, including how helped her!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


During my time on patrol, I participated in my share of car chases—or “vehicle pursuits” as we called them in official reports.  A typical report contained a meticulous recitation of every street traveled, every turn negotiated, every stop sign and red light disregarded.  Most often, the report failed to portray the danger, the urgency, or the chaos of the chase.  Although we were always directed to “paint a picture in words” for the prosecutor and the courts, our use of legalese—sophisticated coptalk—usually left the image rather cloudy.  You weren't supposed to write a thrilling novel but a “just the facts” narrative.
You want the readers of your novel to visualize your chase clearly.  Before you write, it may be helpful to diagram your chase using one of the many online navigational aids available such as MapQuest and Google Earth. Following a map lets you establish the twists and turns of a car chase realistically, even down to which street are one-ways, which have media strips, and so forth.  If your setting is a fictional place, you can select a locale