Monday, April 13, 2015

Write Away: L is for Larceny and Lineup

This post is a day early because I have a guest scheduled tomorrow and I wanted the day to be hers. And, it IS Tuesday somewhere in the world already. So, early L and a great guest post awaits you tomorrow! Yay! I'll bring you M on Wednesday as scheduled.

Larceny is a common-law property crime. Larceny is the unlawful taking of another’s personal property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of it. Usually it is a non-violent crime.

To be classed as larceny, there are three factors that must be met: the intent must be felonious, the intent is for the property to be appropriated for personal use, and the property must be taken from another’s possession (without the will of the owner), not just found and appropriated.

Larceny involves personal property, so unlawful taking of real estate wouldn’t fit the definition. Picking an apple off a tree is not larceny, but under some circumstances, taking an apple from that tree which is on the ground, might be classed as larceny. And larceny involves any degree of removal, even if the item is dropped back into the owner’s lap.

The value of the stolen property determines whether the theft is grand or petty larceny. Each state sets the amount distinguishing grand and petty larcenies.

If you are including larceny as a crime in your book, carefully read up the legal implications for your setting. This is a trickier crime than it appears at first glance.

A police Lineup (British: Identity Parade) is a cast of suspects or others displayed to witnesses for identification purposes. The witness’s putative identification must be confirmed to a level for presenting the lineup identification as evidence in court proceedings. It is believed that showing several possibilities to witnesses, while demanding more of memory, is more likely to lead to more accurate identification.

The constitutional protection against self-incrimination does not apply to lineups. One may be compelled to appear in a lineup. Police lineups conducted prior to charging someone with a crime or indictment are not required to allow counsel to be present. As you might imagine, how the lineup was conducted could jeopardize the state’s case on several fronts. I’m sure you can see several scenario possibilities for your crime and criminal.

The Innocence Project claims that eyewitness misidentification accounts for 72% of convictions overturned by DNA evidence. Police know the concerns and try very hard to ensure the objectivity of lineups.

To be admissible, the lineup must be conducted fairly. Police are barred from saying or doing anything to influence the identification. Ways to keep the lineup fair include: using officers who don’t know the identity of the suspect, excluding people who look nothing like the description, using foils who fit the profile, using people of similar height/complexion/build, everyone standing side by side and showing frontal and profile views, using a “six pack” (photo array), and video recordings of suspects mixed with volunteers. Some departments are using sequential photo arrays (one at a time) rather than simultaneous (six photos at a time) as a way to ensure more accuracy. Interestingly, telling witnesses they don’t need to choose one of the lineup, leads to fewer false identifications.

Often the physical lineup happens in a space like we see on TV (darkened room with one-way mirror, suspects lined up with height markers behind them), but not always. The rooms can vary. In a “show up”, only one suspect is shown to the witness.

In your story, you may want to show a lineup scene. Check with your local police to find out what they use so you can be accurate for your locale.

Read more of “The List” in part 12. In this scene, Mort and Frieda disagree about Mort's intent.

Listen,” Mort responded, “that heap lived a lot longer than I thought it would. It’s almost as old as that typewriter you won’t replace. I just did for you what you wouldn’t do. You need a good car.”
            “And why is that? We hardly ever use my car in the city. I use a car service if you can’t take me to a book signing or a speech. I can’t remember when I last drove.”
            “Well, that might change. You need to be prepared.”
            “So you just took it on yourself to make that decision. Typical of you! You always have to be in control, don’t you? You know what’s best for me. Go to some godforsaken edge of the world for a week. Get a new car. What’s next? What else have you shifted in my perfectly ordered world?”


  1. I read most of this. Some of the sections I scanned over. A lot of valuable information. I remember over 10 years ago hearing you at the Fresno SinC talk about working with a son-in-law who was a police officer to help you in your writing. You certainly have homed in (or is honed) your knowledge of police and law terms well. It's so easy to use the wrong term; i.e., I'll have to check online to check again if I used "homed in" correctly & also "i.e."

  2. Hi, Linda! I'm flattered I remind you of someone, but I've never addressed the Fresno SinC group (that would be fun to do, however). I'm glad you found some useful stuff here. This has been a fun series to work on. I know I write too much, but I get so carried away with my topics. I hope you'll be back.