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I am in the initial stages of hashing out a plot for my next legal thriller. I'm sure there are major problems with it. Maybe you can point them out and suggest fixes.

 

  1. A female assassin named Aksana shoots a man in the head.
  2. After she leaves the scene, she is stopped (possibly due to a clerical error).
  3. The police find her weapon during the stop.
  4. The weapon has had the serial number removed.
  5. She is arrested on an illegal weapons charge.
  6. At her arraignment, her lawyer is able to show that the search was illegal, and the case is thrown out (possibly because the stop was related to a clerical error, haven't decided yet).
  7. I'm guessing they do not return the illegal weapon even though the search was illegal (??).
  8. The police discover the body and retrieve the bullet.
  9. A ballistics test is done, and they get a probable match between the bullet and the weapon.
  10. Aksana is not arrested because they don't have any evidence they can use, but they investigate her.
  11. More evidence surfaces, and she is re-arrested.
  12. Aksana is able to get out on bail.
  13. She is held over, and the trial goes through ups and downs.
  14. Before the trial ends, a suspect that the police didn't pursue commits suicide with a note confessing to the assassination.
  15. The charges are dismissed.
  16. It turns out that Aksana faked the other suspect's suicide.

 

Many thanks in advance for your help!

 

Al

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Concerning step 6, would the woman's lawyer be able to call a witness during the arraignment?

 

In this case, I'd like to have him call the arresting officer and show that there was no consent for the search.

 

Thanks!

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That's not how it works. 

 

After a person is arrested, there is a preliminary hearing to determine whether the person should remain on bond and to be "bound over to the grand jury", in other words, to remain under arrest.  The preliminary hearing, sometimes called a "probable cause" or PC hearing, is usually perfunctory and only requires a probable cause to find the defendant was probably involved in a crime.    Bond may be set at that time, if it hasn't already been set. 

 

Then the prosecutor presents evidence to a grand jury further suggesting the person should be formally charged or indicted.  The grand jury will inevitably charge the person since exculpatory evidence is not presented.

 

After the person has been indicted, they are arraigned.  It is at the point, defendant is actually formally charged with the crime and pleads guilty or not guilty.  There is no testiimony at the arraignment except, possibly evidence regarding whether the defendant should remain free on bond.

 

 

Following the arraignment, the defendant's attorney may move the court to surpress evidence which has been obtained illegally.  That is where the question of consent to a search arises.  The arresting officer can be called to prove the arrest was not consensual.

 

You need to do a little background study before you start writing about the criminal legal process.

 

 

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That's not how it works in California.

 

California:

 

1. Arraignment must occur within 48 hours, weekends and holidays not included (Plea entered, bail set)

2. Pretrial conference phase, including preliminary hearing (Within 10 days of arraignment and concluded within 60 calendar days)

3. Trial

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4 hours ago, TromboneAl said:

That's not how it works in California.

 

California:

 

1. Arraignment must occur within 48 hours, weekends and holidays not included (Plea entered, bail set)

2. Pretrial conference phase, including preliminary hearing (Within 10 days of arraignment and concluded within 60 calendar days)

3. Trial 

There are more steps.  Arraignment,  preliminary hearing conference (which could be called a pretrial) where the hearing is confirmed or set over to another day.  After the preliminary hearing, if the defendant is bound over, there is an arraignment on the information within 21 days.  THEN at that arraignment, the matter would be set for trial and there would be a date set as the last day for pretrial motions such as suppression or to set aside the information.  Motions to suppress evidence are NOT run at an arraignment.  It's required that a formal motion be filed and the DA served at least 10 days before.  They can be done during the preliminary hearing with 5-days notice to the DA.  Otherwise, it's done separately after the defendant is arraigned on the information.  Note that in CA, if the court dismisses after suppressing evidence, the DA can refile the case and get another hearing on the suppression issue and they can also appeal the ruling.

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26 minutes ago, LegalwriterOne said:

Motions to suppress evidence are NOT run at an arraignment.  It's required that a formal motion be filed and the DA served at least 10 days before. 

 

Excellent info, just what I need. Thanks for the help.

 

My plan is to engineer this so that the search will be clearly illegal.

 

Would this timing be reasonable:

 

Day 0: Traffic stop

Day 1: Arraignment. Not guilty plea entered.

Day 8: Pretrial hearing. The defendant's attorney files motion for suppression of the seized weapon.

Day 20: Judge rules that the search was illegal, and the gun cannot be introduced. The prosecutor dismisses the charges.

 

Also, is it possible that the lawyer would meet with the prosecutor and say, "Hey, look. There's no way you can get that gun introduced as evidence," at which point the prosecutor agrees and decides to drop the charges?

 

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16 hours ago, adjusterjack said:

I think I saw that plot on TV recently.

 

 

If you're saying that I stole the idea, that is not the case. I've never seen that plot anywhere.

 

If you're saying "Ho hum, that plot's just like many others," you may be right. I sincerely appreciate your opinion and will take it into consideration.

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There are innumerable exceptions that apply to searches done during a traffic stop.  No DA in CA is going to just agree to suppress evidence.  When the search is not based upon a warrant, there is a hearing where the officer testifies.  It's almost too easy for the DA to make the search fit and exception.....

 

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2 hours ago, TromboneAl said:

If you're saying "Ho hum, that plot's just like many others," you may be right. I sincerely appreciate your opinion and will take it into consideration.

 

Yeah, that's what I'm saying.

 

2 hours ago, TromboneAl said:

My plan is to engineer this so that the search will be clearly illegal.

 

If the search is "clearly" illegal then your story comes to a screeching halt because nobody will need to know the rest of the story.

 

You have to make the search questionable but not "clearly" illegal. Then your readers will have to keep going to find out how it turns out.

 

I suggest you read the Terry v Ohio Supreme Court Decision and see how complicated the issue is.

 

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=806&q=terry+v+ohio&btnG=

 

Note that the Terry decision has been cited over 43,000 time in subsequent cases both in federal and state courts. I'm sure that many decisions upheld a search and many didn't.

 

Research into case law will give you idea on how you can write your search where a decision for or against is unpredictable and keeps the reader on the edge of the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

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