Nov. 7, 2021

20BooksVegas, Missing Teenagers and Murder


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Transcript

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This week on the writer's detective bureau, the upcoming 20 books, Vegas conference, missing teenagers and murder. I'm Adam Richardson. And this is the writer's detective bureau. Welcome to episode number 113 of the writer's detective bureau. The podcast dedicated to helping authors and screenwriters write professional quality crime related fiction.

And this week I'm answering questions about teenagers. Well, I don't have any of my own, so to be more precise, I'm talking about how we deal with teenagers as missing persons and as suspects in a murder. Thanks for joining me here for episode 113 feels good to be back on track with the podcast episodes and being able to commit so much more time and effort into helping you.

Speaking of which no, don't tell them I told you this, but my very first cohort of the writer's detective school is getting closer to solving their murder investigation. And I feel like a really proud Papa. And this has been so much fun. The reason why I am mentioning this is because the next cohort, cohort 22-1 will start on January 1st, 2022. I can't believe that's right around the corner,

but if you want first shot at a seat in this cohort, be sure to add your email to the notification list by going to writer's detective school.com. I do limit the number of seats in each cohort because live interaction is a significant part of it. And no one wants to be in a zoom room with a hundred people, right? But if you are interested,

be sure to get on the email list before black Friday in tint. And again, you can get on the list by going to writer's detective school.com and speaking of doing live stuff, I am headed to lost wages, Nevada tomorrow. I'm recording this on the 6th of November, 2021, but I'm headed there to attend and speak at the 20 books Vegas conference. I will be on the realistic police procedural panel on Tuesday afternoon,

hosted by Patrick O'Donnell from cops and writers podcast fame. And we will be joined with Paul Bishop, Cathy Bennett and Scott Moon. So if you happen to be attending the conference, come say hello, ask about our secret meetup. But if you won't be at the conference, I've got you covered to go to writers, detective.com forward slash 20 books. So two zero B O O K S.

And that will take you to the 20 books to 50 K live events, YouTube channel, where you'll be able to see the recordings of most of the conference sessions for free, including the realistic police procedurals panel. It's my understanding. They are live streaming the sessions to one of the 20 bucks to 50 K Facebook groups. I'm not sure which or what the details are on that,

but once the sessions are over, they'll post them to the YouTube page, which again, you can find by going to writers, detective.com forward slash 20 books. Now let's get to the questions. Hi, my name is Andromeda Romano lax, and I love your show and I've recommended it to many others. My question is about the process for seeking to teenagers who may or may not have been involved in possibly harming a baby and later involvement with murder of an adult while babysitting for the purposes of my 24 hour long plot line,

little is known at first and the teens appeared to have runaway from something that was probably a mere accident or natural illness. Parents will not fill out a missing persons report for the first 12 hours. My questions, which are almost certainly too numerous are, do police actively encourage missing persons reports. If parents don't pursue right away, would police track the cell phones of kids whose parents own the accounts?

So no warrant needed. I'm assuming if a report weren't filed, how well does the age of the kids? 16 and 17 matter, especially before police know a murder was committed. For example, if a question was just about harm to a baby and the parents of that baby are not pressing charges and what would lead the police to suspect that one teen,

the boy had kidnapped or fall asleep in prison. The other, the girl, I know that is a lot to ask. Thank you so much for considering These are great questions, Andromeda, and I'm happy to at least try tackling all of them on this episode. So let's start with the teens taking off and the police getting involved. I'm assuming one of two things happened here.

Either the parents called the police to report the teens missing, or the police were called about the injured baby and learning that the teens took off was discovered as part of that initial investigation. If the parents are not willing file a missing persons report, we have no reason to look for them. And realistically, they probably would not have called the police department in the first place.

Most police departments are so understaffed and overworked that they are going to rely on the parents to decide whether the teen should be reported missing or not. Especially when we're talking about high school age, children that likely have the ability to drive or access to friends that can drive a car. That kind of thing. Now that radically changes the scope of a search.

When we're talking about cars compared to a kid like a younger juvenile that's on foot or on a bicycle. Now, if they are suspects in an act of violence, that certainly changes things. If the police have probable cause to believe the teens had something to do with injuring a baby, whether they are pursued for that may not be the choice of the baby's parents.

The term you correctly used of pressing charges in your question is another way of saying, making a citizens arrest. Another term for the same thing is filing a complaint. Those terms are synonymous with making a citizens arrest for a misdemeanor. If the police have probable cause to believe that what the teens did amounts to a felony or a wobbler, which is a crime that can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor,

then the decision to pursue the teens and have them prosecuted is one for the police, not the baby's parents. This differentiation between misdemeanor and felony is an important one, especially when it comes to who makes the decision to make an arrest. I'm going to digress for a second here, back in the rough old days, domestic violence was like any other kind of battery.

If the wounds didn't appear significant when the police arrived, it was considered a simple battery or a misdemeanor battery, which more often than not put the wife in the position of having to decide whether to make a citizen's arrest on her husband. So she might have arrested him that first time, but then when he got out of jail, he beat her again as punishment for sending them to jail.

So to keep this cycle from continuing domestic violence became a wobbler charged as a felony. So if the police respond to the same couple nowadays, and the wife has the slightest visible injury, it's no longer her decision to have her husband arrested. The crime is charged as a felony, regardless of what the wife wants. Now, applying that injury of the child that you were talking about in your story,

we can use California laws, an example. We have child endangerment laws. So section 2 73, a of the California penal code covers crimes of abandonment, neglect, and injury. And depending upon the circumstances, they could be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. Now you and I would have to delve a little deeper into what the police would likely think they have in your story,

as it relates to your specific set of circumstances in order to figure out the realistic logistics of what would happen next, but suffice it to say there's a big difference between keeping an eye out for runaways and hunting for what the police have probable cause to believe are a pair of criminals. As for the cell phone tracking. If the parents are using their find my iPhone app or find my friends app,

then obviously the parents are voluntarily providing that information to the police. If the police are having to get the cell phone location data from the phone company, regardless of whether the teens are considered missing runaways or suspects in a crime, the police would have to get some sort of court order. Now, the police may make an exigent circumstances request to the phone company saying time is of the essence and finding the teens,

but they would still have to follow up with a court order that is signed by a judge telling the phone company that the police had legal justification to ping those cell phones. Now, the important thing to understand is that this is true. Even if the parents told the phone company that they have given consent for the police to get the data. The question you might be wondering is why.

And the reason is because the phone company is the one with legal standing over the search, not the customer of the phone company. So that data belongs to the phone company and is housed within the phone company. So the parents don't have the legal authority to grant a search within the phone company. So I hope that makes sense now real quick, before I answer the rest of Andromeda's questions,

I want to make sure I think my gold shield patrons, Debra Dunbar from Debra Dunbar com CC Jameson from CC jameson.com. Larry Keeton Vicki Tharp of Vicki tharp.com. Chrysann Larry darter, Natalie Barrelli Craig Kingsman of Craig Kingsman dot com. Lynn Vitale, Marco Carocari of Marco Carocari dot com. Rob Kerns of night's fall, press Mariah stone of Mariah stone.com and Roger Jacobson for their support,

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Okay, now let's get back to Andromeda's questions. How else does the age of the kids ages 16 and 17 matter again? It depends on where your story is set, but here in California, a juvenile as young as 14 can be tried as an adult, given the severity in details of the crime, it may also affect how the police handle any interviews with the teens.

Once they are located. Most of us know the Miranda admonishment from all the TV cop shows. We've seen that right to remain silent, right to an attorney, that kind of stuff, but some states like California require the juvenile must first consult with an attorney before any custodial interrogation. So it's more than just flipping out the car to reading them the rights it's.

You actually have to put them on the phone or in a room with an attorney, have that consultation happen before we can do a custodial interrogation being 16 and 17 also changes things because they have their ability to access vehicles like an adult would meaning they're less likely to be considered at risk, like a young juvenile. We briefly touched on that a little bit ago,

but being out at 2:00 AM in winter as a ten-year-old would be viewed as much more of a life hazard than a of teenagers nearing adulthood that are out at 2:00 AM in winter, which brings us to police discovering a murder. This will likely change pretty much everything. These two will either be viewed as suspects or as percipient witnesses to a murder, either way, finding them will be critical to investigating the case.

Arguably, the police might even view finding the teens as part of ensuring they too, aren't the victims of murder, depending on what evidence the police have connecting the teens and the murder, which brings us to your last question and drama. What would lead police to suspect that one teen, the boy had kidnapped or falsely imprisoned the other a girl? The answer is evidence.

I know that seems like a no-brainer, but maintaining an open mind as to what happened and letting the evidence speak for itself, letting that evidence reveal what actually happened is key. The earlier in a case that someone on the investigative team comes up with a theory as to what happened, you know, that scene where you're standing there and the crime scene, and,

you know, the, the no at all, detective is dictating, you know, their theory. This is what happened here. The harder it is for that person to deviate from that original theory, they start viewing any new evidence through the lens of confirmation bias. If the evidence doesn't fit my theory, I discount its value because I know I'm right.

That is no way to work an investigation, but it is a great way to build tension between characters and create conflict. So you may end up with a protagonist that is viewing the evidence clearly, but has to challenge a coworker's inaccurate theory. That's viewing things through that confirmation bias in order for justice to be served. Thanks so much for your questions Andromeda.

I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening this week, while I'm in Vegas at the 20 books conference. How about you ask me a question like Andromeda did for the next episode, either by voice or by text and you can do so by going to writers, detective.com forward slash podcast. Thanks again for listening. Have a great week and write well.