Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yes No Maybe

I thought it was a simple question: can an ordinary citizen find out who posted bail for someone? I'm finishing up book three of my Miniatures Mysteries and needed this information.

I emailed a very trusted, competent source in law enforcement who's a retired homicide detective, now an investigator on a DA's staff. I expected a yes or no answer but instead got a promise to ask around and get back to me. That was my first surprise. This guy usually immediately has an answer, four stories, and a joke to go with every query I send him.

Later in the day, he didn't have an answer, he had a pot pourri of answers, garnered from several attorneys: sometimes yes, sometimes no, in some counties, for some citizens, maybe the press can find out, maybe not. In his county no one has ever asked, so there's no case law. Imagine that!

I decided to do more research. I asked friends in law enforcement, browsed on the Internet, and posted to various bulletin boards. Same result: ambiguous all around.

I also wanted to know if someone could post bail for another person anonymously. More agreement there—you have to show ID. But, there are ways around it, one of which I intend to use in my book.

In my career as a physicist, I would have been upset at a result like that, but as a fiction writer, I'm thrilled. This means I can pick my way through truths and facts and work out a story line that is plausible.

It's like the way we used to look for a priest for confession as kids to find one who'd declare our actions not sinful. (Usually it was the latest arrival from Italy, who didn't understand English well yet.)

Have you ever done that? Not the sin part, but searching for the answer you wanted?


Anonymous said...


I've seen your posts on a number of the loops we share (and, no, I don't have an answer). I love it that we as writers want to get the facts right. Is it because we are fundamentally honest and detail-oriented, or that we're scared some reader down the line will write us a nasty letter telling us exactly what we did wrong?

Sheila (currently researching Jamaican apple pickers and pesticides)

Camille Minichino said...

What a good question!
For me, I love the research I choose, e.g., in this series it's miniatures and Abraham Lincoln and whatever else is a subplot for the book.
BUT some research gets in the way especially when I'm coming close to my deadline.
But ... since I'm not writing police procedurals, I don't mind bending a bit when it suits me.
Don't arrest me anyone!

Anonymous said...

I've done the sin part years ago when I didn't know better, but searching, though time consuming, is an education in its own rite.
And it IS great to be fundamentally honest and want to get the facts right. It's a shame more don't do that. xoxoxo

Ann Parker said...

Hi Camille!
Oh yes, I've been known to search until I found the "exception" that allows the wiggle room needed for proceeding the story. Even a single, errant "data point," apart from the rest, is good enough for me, if it's fiction we're talking about. :-)