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?