Does the villain in your story earn over 2,000 times the minimum wage rate? If so, does he need a defense attorney who’s skilled at obtaining a downward departure for diminished capacity? I think the bad guy’s sister is guilty of misprision of a felony.

Hey, isn’t it time you slipped a few of these tasty tidbits into your stories? Okay, here are a few to get you started, beginning with …

Accessory After the Fact – A person with direct knowledge that a crime has been committed and by some means helps the suspect escape arrest or punishment for the offense.

Aiding and Abetting -This crime is committed, not by the actual perpetrator—the robber, arsonist, murderer, rapist, etc., but by someone who actively promotes the commission of the criminal act, the robbery, arson, murder, rape, etc. A person who aids and abets is often subject to the same punishment as the person who performed the original crime.

Attempt – The effort to commit a crime but without achieving success. A person attempting to commit a crime may be subject to the same punishment as if their efforts were successful.

Bureau of Prisons – The agency that houses federal inmates. Also known as the BOP (pronounced as individual letters – B.O.P., not like “I’m going to “bop” you on the head!”).

Criminal Livelihood – When a defendant commits offenses as part of a pattern of criminal behavior/conduct—a person whose primary source of income is obtained from criminal activity. Federal sentencing guidelines specify that punishment be a “substantial term of imprisonment” for the defendant who commits an offense as part of a pattern of criminal conduct, such as someone whose criminally-sourced income is 2,000 times that of minimum wage.

Dangerous Weapon – Any device or instrument that’s capable of inflicting death or serious bodily harm, including objects that closely resemble such a device. An example of the latter would be, for example, a gun carved from a bar soap and then painted to look like the real thing. A reasonable person could then expect the faux gun to have the capability of causing death or serious bodily harm. Prison inmates have indeed carved guns from bars of soap, and some have used them to successfully fool guards into thinking they’re the real thing.

Defendant – A person who’s been accused of a crime and has entered into the “court” phase of the legal process. Upon conviction, the same person is then considered to be an “offender.”

Defense Attorney: A lawyer who represents a defendant throughout their criminal proceedings.

Departure – Federal Sentencing Guidelines (see below) are predetermined ranges of terms of punishment based on certain factors of a crime and the criminal’s previous history, among other pertinent background and circumstances. A sentence outside the guideline range is called a departure. Departures may be upward, above the guideline range, or downward, below the mandatory minimum required sentence.

For example, a downward departure, a sentence below the mandatory minimum, is based on the defendant’s “substantial assistance” to the government in their investigation and/or prosecution of others. In short, a person who snitches on someone else and when the snitching results in putting their former friend behind bars, well, the snitch receives a shorter sentence than the one specified in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. A perfect example, hypothetically, would be the former friend of a politician who’s been busted for financial crimes. He, in turn, snitches on … say … a president of the United States. The snitch would then receive a lighter sentence than if he’d remained quiet and accepted the standard punishment for his own crimes.

Diminished Capacity – A downward departure from the normal sentencing guideline is warranted if the defendant suffers from a significantly reduced mental capacity, a condition that greatly contributed to the commission of a non-violent offense. Voluntary drug or alcohol use/abuse at the time of the commission of the crime does not apply, nor is it considered by the courts when determining if diminished capacity is a factor.

Duress – A downward departure may be warranted/granted if the defendant committed the crime in question because of serious threats, coercion, or pressure. For example, the man who commits a bank robbery under orders of a kidnapper who’s holding the man’s family hostage and threatens to do them harm should the man not do as told.

Extreme Conduct – A defendant may receive an upward departure from the guidelines range if their during the commission of the crime was exceptionally heinous, cruel, brutal, or degrading to the victim. Likewise, An upward departure from the guidelines may be warranted if a victim suffered extreme psychological injury that’s deemed exceptionally more serious than that normally resulting from commission of the crime.

Brutally maiming and murdering federal agents simply because they dared to ask questions (revenge), well, that may be a crime that warrants an upward departure from the typical sentence.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines – Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much, or how little, prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime.

To read more about Federal Sentencing Guidelines, click here.

Felony – An offense punishable by a prison term of one year or more.

Felony Murder: A killing that takes place during the commission of another dangerous felony, such as robbery.

To get everyone’s attention, a bank robber fires his weapon at the ceiling. A stray bullet hits a customer and she dies as a result of her injury. Then the robber turns toward the bank manager to order him to stay put and, while in the process, accidentally stabs and kills the man with the knife he held in his non-gun hand, the implement he’d planned to use to cut open sealed money bags. The robber has committed felony murder, a killing, however unintentional, that occurred during the commission of a felony. The shooter’s accomplices, assessors after the fact, could also be charged with the murder even if they were not in possession of a weapon or took no part in the death of the victim.

Firearm – Any weapon that expels a projectile caused by the action of an explosive. Since pellet and BB guns do not operate based on explosive charges they are not considered to be firearms. However, depending upon their use, they may be considered dangerous weapons (see Dangerous Weapons, above).

Good Time Credit – Federal prisoners may earn sentence reductions of up to 54 days per year a for their good conduct while in prison. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) awards the credits, not the courts, and they apply only to sentences greater than 12 months. Good time credits may be revoked should an inmate commit rule infractions during their incarceration period—fighting, stealing, possession of contraband such as drugs, weapons, or other prohibited material.

Federal prisoners who play nice during the course of their time behind bars typically see a substantial accumulation of good time credit and will subsequently hit the streets much sooner than those who repeatedly act like idiots.

Due to earned good time credit, federal prisoners who follow the rules are typically released after serving approximately 85% of their sentence.

Hate Crime Motivation –  If it’s proven beyond any reasonable doubt that a defendant intentionally selected a victim because of their race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation, the courts may impose a sentence enhancement/upward departure of the guidelines.

Indictment – A formal, written accusation of a crime made by a Grand Jury. An indictment, once issued, is then presented to a court at which time begins the prosecution of the defendant.

Information – Like an indictment, an Information is a formal, written accusation of a crime. However, the Information is made by a prosecutor, not Grand Juries. This typically occurs in areas where Grand Juries are not utilized.

Judgment and Commitment – Or simply, the “judgment,” is a written record of the defendant’s convictions the sentences.

Kidnapping – An abduction, taking of a hostage, or unlawfully restraining a person to facilitate the commission of an crime. An upward departure of sentencing may be warranted in either of these instances.

Mandatory Minimum – Non-discretionary penalties required by law, such as the federal drug offenses that carry mandatory minimum penalties.

*See Federal Sentencing Guidelines above. To read more about Federal Sentencing Guidelines, click here.

Misdemeanor: A crime that’s punishable by one year of imprisonment, or less.

Misprision of a Felony – The concealment and/or nondisclosure of a felony by a person who did not participate in the committed crime. Example – John Iseenit, the man who knows that his friend, Bill Idunit, robbed a bank yet he allows Bill to hide out in his home along with the stolen cash. When the cops stop by to ask if John knows Bill’s whereabouts, he lies and says he does not.

Obstruction of Justice: Obstruction of Justice is a very broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

For more about obstruction, see When Lying Becomes A Crime: Obstruction Of Justice

Offense Level: The severity level of an offense as determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much or how little prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime.

To learn more about these guidelines, go here … So, You’ve Committed a Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

Order – The written command issued by a court or a judge.

Parole: The early and conditional release from prison. Should the parolee violate those conditions, he/she could be returned to prison to complete the remainder of their sentence. Parole, however, was abolished in the federal prison system in 1984. In lieu of parole, federal inmates earn good time credits based on their behavior during incarceration. Remember, federal inmates may earn a sentence reduction of up to 54 days per year. Good time credits are often reduced when prisoners break the rules, especially when the rules broken are serious offenses—fighting, stealing, possession of contraband such as drugs, weapons, or other prohibited material.

* Writers, please remember this one. There is no parole in the federal system. People incarcerated in federal prison after 1984 are not eligible for parole because is does not exist. I see this all the time in works of fiction.

Plea Agreement – Is an agreement whereby a defendant enters a guilty plea to avoid proceeding to trial. The agreement contains promises made by both the prosecutor and defendant, and each must must each abide by those written guarantees. Each party benefits in some way. The prosecutor avoids a lengthy and costly trial while maintaining a desired conviction rate. The defendant typically receives a shorter, more lenient sentence for agreeing to help the prosecutor maintain that upper level conviction rate.

Pre-sentence Report (“PSR”) – Prior to sentencing, a probation officer must thoroughly investigate all aspects of a defendant’s life—criminal history, family ties, work record, community ties, etc. This information is then compiled into a comprehensive report that’s filed with the courts, under seal. Also contained in the pre-sentence report is information about the offense and offender, the mandatory range of punishment, and recommendations and basis for imposing a departure above or below the guideline range.

Probation – A sentence option that allows a defendant to avoid imprisonment. Although, it’s common to see sentences comprised of some probation in conjunction with short stays in prison, such as the sentence of five years that’s split as three years behind bars with the balance of two years served as probation (this is known as a “split sentence”). Or, a sentence may be served as weekends in jail, confinement in halfway house where the offender is allowed to work during the day but return to the halfway house at night. Even home detention is a prison or jail sentence. It’s merely served in a unique way.. A person on probation is monitored by a probation officer and must follow all rules issued by the judge. Should  probationer break a rule, he may be ordered back to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence.

Revocation – The cancellation or reversal of an act or court order, such as when an offender violates the terms of supervised probation. The probation officer would ask that the judge revoke the offender’s supervised release and return them to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence. Prisoners refer to this action as being violated.

“Why are you back in the joint, Petey?” said One-Tooth McGee.

“That &%*# probation officer violated me,” Petey said.

Sentencing Table Sentencing guideline, in months. See  So, You’ve Committed a Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

Substantial Assistance – Assisting the government in its investigation and/or prosecution of another individual in return for a reduced sentence.  *See “Departure” above.

Vacate – Based on a factual error, to void a sentence and then remand it back to the original court for re-sentencing.

Waive – To validly give up a right, such as a right to trial or the right to remain silent.

Especially for you, an O-R guide to fingerprinting … and more.

Oil Gland– Unlike eccrine and apocrine glands, which are sweat glands, the sebaceous gland is considered an oil gland.

Oligodactyly– Having less than the ordinary number of fingers or toes.

Orthodactyly– Fingers and toes cannot be flexed.

Ortho-Tolidine– A dual-purpose chemical that works both as a presumptive test for blood and has also been used to develop fingerprint detail on human skin.

Osborn Grid Method– Superimposing a grid on photographic enlargements of latent prints found at a crime scene as well as the inked fingerprints of a suspect(s). Scientist then painstakingly examine both, square by square looking for matching individualities.

Os calcis– A bone in the foot.

Osmium Tetroxide (Osmic Acid Fuming)– A fuming technique used to process items for latent fingerprints. Due to excessive costs and dangers associated with the product, it is now rarely used, if ever.


PBFE– Probability Based Fingerprint Evidence.

Papillary Ridges– Rows of eccrine glands situated along the trail of fingerprint

friction ridges.

Patent Print– Fingerprints that are visible without development. (Latent prints are typically invisible to the naked eye).

Pathology– The study of causes, nature, and effects of diseases, trauma, and other abnormalities, and the changes to the body created by them.

Pattern Formations– Details of fingerprints created as early as the third month of gestation.

Pelmatoscopy– The scientific studies of the friction ridges of the soles of feet.

Pen Pack/Penitentiary Packet– A pen pack is the comprehensive imprisonment record of an inmate that’s supplied by the Department of Corrections. When fingerprints are included in the pen pack, and they are indeed typically found there, they’re used for comparison purposes. Other information found in pen packs are terms of confinement, background intelligence, and other similar details.

Perceptual Set – The tendency to see what we expect to see.

Phalange– Any bone in the fingers or toes.

Phalangeal– Of the bones in the fingers and toes.

Physical Developer– Chemical processing technique to develop latent prints on porous items. The technique was developed in the 1970s to develop fingerprints on porous items.

Pincushion Method– AKA the Constellation Method.  This outdated technique was used in the first half of the 20th century to compare prints and to confirm an identification. Investigators pushed pins through each of the ridge characteristics of both latent (prints discovered at a crime scene) and known prints (prints of a known suspect). They then compared the holes (from the reverse sides). If the holes on the latent print matched those of the suspect’s print, well, they had their man, or woman.

If you happen to have a copy of the April 1956 edition of Fingerprint and Identification Magazine, you could read more on the topic since it was featured in the issue.

Plastic Print– Fingerprint left in a malleable substance, such as clay or wax.

Points/ Points of Identification– Fingerprint ridge characteristics.


RAM– Combination of Rhodamine 6G, Ardrox and MBD dyes. The mixture fluoresces when exposed to a special alternate light source, which in turn makes it possible to see prints developed using cyanoacrylate (Superglue) fumes.

RUVIS– Reflective Ultra-Violet imaging system that allows visualization of fingerprint detail in an ultraviolet spectrum. (see below for details and a video)

Redwop ™– A fluorescent fingerprint powder.

Rubber Lifter– A sheet of flexible rubber with adhesive on one side. Rubber lifters are used to “lift” latent prints.

Ruthenium Tetroxide (RTX)– Chemical used to enhance/see fingerprint detail on fabrics and other porous material such as some stones, leather, glass, tape, wood, plastics, and even human skin and wet surfaces.


RUVIS (Reflective Ultraviolet Imaging System), a system of locating latent (invisible) fingerprints) without the use of powders, fumes, or chemicals, was developed by Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories and the U.S. Army. The system focuses on one specific section of shortwave ultraviolet light, the germicidal spectrum of light, which cannot be seen by the naked eye.

A particularly unique feature of RUVIS technology is that it works in both total darkness and in bright sunshine, a must for use by police investigators.

The Krimesite Imager uses RUVIS technology to detect invisible residues from fingerprints. Those residues reflect UV light projected from the device, which immediately captures the reflections with a 60mm UV lens. A built-in scanner then converts the images to visible light, allowing the investigator to see the fingerprint. All this is done instantly, in real time. And, the detective is able to see images from up to fifteen feet away.

Once the print is located, the investigator uses the Imager to photograph it and, with the use of a micro-printer, print a copy of the desired evidence. All this without the messy powders that never seem to wash away. The KS Imager can also be used to greatly enhance prints developed using cyanoacrylate fuming (Super Glue).

Note – I doubt many of you will be picking up one of these devices for your home CSI kit. The price tag is between $9,000 and $22,000, depending the style of devise selected.


Here’s a video shot at the Sirchie compound near Raleigh, N.C. It shows the Krimesite Imager in action.

Those of you attending the Writers’ Police Academy, take note, because you are in for a surprise! Yes, space is available! By the way, the event is open to all (writers, readers, fans, and anyone else who’s interested in participating in a thrilling, hands-on training event) And, it is FUN!.

In the meantime …

Especially for you, a J-N guide to fingerprinting … and more.


JFI – Journal of Forensic Identification.

JFS – Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Joint – Hinged area where two bones are joined together.


Keratinocyte – The major cell found in the epidermis.

Keratins – Highly insoluble fibrous proteins found in skin-related structures such as hair, wool, hooves and horns, claws, beaks, and even feathers.


Latent Print – Friction ridge detail (fingerprint) that is not readily seen by the naked eye.

Law of Biological Uniqueness– Scientific Law stating that all items in nature are unique.

Leuco Rhodamine 6G – Reagent that reacts with the heme moiety of the hemoglobin of red cells in blood. It’s used to enhance and visualize fingerprints left in blood.

Leucocrystal Violet – A colorless form of gentian violet used to stain blood residue on both porous and nonporous items.

Lift– An adhesive or other vehicle used to transfer a friction ridge imprint (a fingerprint) from a surface.

Lights Out – Computer process where the AFIS computer automatically obtains friction skin features, searches the AFIS system, and presents an identification or exclusion based on a predermined score. No human is involved in this process.

Liquid Nitrogen – In its liquid state (-195 degree C), liquid nitrogen is ideal for the separation of adhesive surfaces.

Liqui-drox – A fluorescent yellow solution used to develop prints on both sides of dark-colored adhesive tapes.

Locard’s Principle of Exchange – Edmond Locard’s Principle of Exchange states that when any two objects come into contact, there is always transference of material from each object onto the other. (People entering a crime scene both leave and take away evidence, in some form).

Loupe – A small magnifying glass used in the identification and comparison of fingerprints.

Luminol – Chemical that glows with a bluish tint when it comes into contact with blood. it can detect blood at 1 part per million. It’s so sensitive, in fact, that one drop of blood within a container of 999,999 drops of water, will cause luminol to glow.


MC’s – Major Case Prints.

MMD – Multimetal Deposition, a two step process using a colloidal gold and a physical developer solution to enhance latent prints.

5-MTN – Methylthioninhydrin, a reagent that reacts with amino acids to develop prints on porous items.

Medial Interphalangeal Flexion Crease – The middle crease on a finger.

Metacarpo-phalangeal Crease – Creases where the fingers meet the palm.

Microburst Method – Developed by the FBI, this method of developing prints is designed to expose a nonporous item to a large amount of Cyanoacrylate (Superglue) fumes for a small amount of time. The Superglue is positioned into a chamber heated to temperatures above 300 degrees. The item to be printed is then placed in the chamber for 30-45 seconds.

Minutiae – Small details.

Molybdenum Disulfide – Chemical used to prepare Small Particle Reagent (SPR). SPR is a means to develop latent fingermarks on wet, non-porous surfaces such as glass, plastic, metals and even the sticky sides of tape.


NCFS – National Commission on Forensic Science.

NCIC – National Crime Information Center. To learn more about NCIC, click here.

NFB – National Fingerprint Board of England and Wales.

NV – Abbreviation for “No Value,” meaning a print has no value for identification purposes.

Stay tuned for exciting Writers’ Police Academy news. In the meantime, space is available so please hurry. Sign up today. This year is absolutely incredible!!



Especially for you, an E-I guide to fingerprinting … and more.


Epidermis– Outer layer of the skin.

Epithelial Cells– Cells that line and protect the surfaces of the body. These cells form epithelial tissues such as skin and mucous membranes.

Exemplar– Fingerprints of an individual, whose identity is known or claimed, and is

deliberately recorded.


FER– Fluorescence Excitation Radiometry.

FFS– Fellow of The Fingerprint Society.

Final– Numerical value typically derived from the ridge count of the right little finger.

Fingerprint Powders– Powders used to develop and visualize friction ridge detail.

The Flak-Conley Classification System– A fingerprint classification system developed in 1906, in New Jersey.

Flats– An unofficial term for the intentional recording/fingerprinting of the four fingers of either hand, taken simultaneously

Fluorescein– Fluorescent reagent used to enhance develop bloody friction ridge detail.

Folien– A gel used to lift and preserve latent fingerprints.

Friction Ridge– The raised portion of skin found on the palmar and plantar skin.

Identical twins do not share the same fingerprints.


GYRO– The color-coded system of documenting the level of confidence that a fingerprint examiner assigns to various print details observed during the examination and comparison of prints. GYRO is an acronym for Green / Yellow / Red / Orange.

  • Green is used to note ridge details observed with high confidence levels.
  • Yellow = medium confidence levels (detail with negligible alteration).
  • Red = a great deal of uncertainty (details of great distortion).
  • Orange notes ridge details discovered after the initial examination.

Gentian Violet (akaCrystal Violet) – a violet stain used to develop and/or enrich friction ridge detail. Crystal Violet dyes the fats and oils found in sebaceous sweat. This stain is typically used to develop prints on the adhesive side of tape.

Grip Print– Prints left behind after a person “grips” an object. The entire print typically includes the side of the index finger, the inner side of the interdigital areas, the web area, and the inner side of the thumb.


Hallux– Big toe.

Huffing/The Hot Breath Technique– Breathing on a latent print introduces humidity into an older (latent/invisible) fingerprint. Doing so helps the investigator visualize it.

Hungarian Red– A red stain used to develop bloody friction ridge detail.

Hyperdactyly– Having more than the normal number of fingers or toes.

Hyperhidrosis– Medical condition that increases perspiration.

Hypohidrosis– Medical condition that reduces sweating.


IAFIS– Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

Image Reversal– An Image Reversal typically occurs in unintentional transferred prints (placing evidence seized in one case on top of evidence from another, such as plastic bags containing narcotics).

FYI Writers – When friction ridges from a latent print are reversed (planting a fingerprint at a crime scene, or accidentally) they tend to appear very thin and thready. Also, the background area surrounding the “new” print may not match the surface of the place where the transferred print was left. The background pattern could/would transfer along with the print. It’s also important to note that these prints are obvious mirror images and would be easily recognized by a skilled examiner.


Immigration Delay Disease (IDD)– A rare congenital absence of fingerprints. To learn more, click here.

Iodine– As either a vapor or solution, this substance helps to visualize friction ridge detail by binding with fats and oils.


Especially for you, an A-D guide to fingerprinting … and more.

A-Naphaflavone– chemical used in fixing Iodine processed friction ridge detail.

AFIS– Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

ALPS– Automated Latent Print System.

ALS– Alternate Light Source.

APIS– Automated Palmprint Identification System.

Acid Fuchsin– Reddish protein stain used to enhance bloody friction ridge detail. Also known as Hungarian Red.

Acid Yellow 7– A fluorescent dye stain used to develop latent prints left in blood on nonporous surfaces.

Adermatoglyphia– An extremely rare genetic lack of fingerprints.

Alternate Black Powder– Developed by the FBI in the 1990’s. this powder is used as an inexpensive, yet quite successful means of developing ridge detail on adhesive surfaces and/or various types of tapes.

Amici Curiae– Latin for “friend of the court.”

Anhidrosis– A medical condition that decreases or eliminates the capability of the body to sweat.

Ardrox– Fluorescent yellow dye used with UV light to see cyanoacrylate-fumed (Superglue) friction ridge detail.

Battley Classification System– Classification system for single fingerprints. The system was used in the 1930’s.

Benzidine– Benzidine, a carcinogen, was once considered as the best technique for developing bloody latent prints on nonporous items. However, due to serious health concerns, it is no longer used.

Bifurcation– Point where one friction ridge divides into two friction ridges.

Boiling Technique – Method to re-hydrate the friction skin of a deceased person. This is exactly how it sounds. To rehydrate friction skin, investigators bring water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and then submerge the hand of the deceased in the hot liquid for five seconds. The hand is then removed and dried. The skin should now be successfully hydrated to the point where it’s possible to capture a readable print. If not, the process is repeated.

In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog

  Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and a … dead man’s hand?


Bracelet Creases– These are the creases/wrinkles located at the base of the palm, where the hand meets the arm. This is typically the spot where friction ridges end.

CA or CAE– Cyanoacrylate (Superglue). An adhesive that, when heated, its fumes develop friction ridge detail.

Cadmium Chloride– A metal salt used to treat ninhydrin developed fingerprints.

Calcar Area– Area at the heel of the foot.

Cheiloscopy– The study of lip prints.

Chiroscopy– Examination of the hand.

Clandestine– Kept or done in secret.

Cluster Prints– A grouping of more than one print.

Collins Classification System– Classification system for fingerprints used by Scotland Yard in the early 1900’s.

Colloidal Gold– Reagent that reacts with amino acids to develop ridge detail.

Comparator– A split image screen used to view and compare fingerprints.

Core– The center/middle of a fingerprint pattern.

Diaminobenzidine– Reagent used to spot and develop bloody friction ridge detail. Also known as DAB.

DPR, or Dermatopathia Pigmentosa Reticularis – a genetic disorder that’s handed down through the female side of the family. DPR is caused by a specific gene that mutates during embryonic growth. The result of the mutation is a lack of ridge detail and sweat glands.

Dactylography– Study of fingerprints as a method of identification.

Dactyloscopy– The comparison of fingerprints for identification.

Degloving– The unintentional separation of the skin from the hands or feet. This unintentional parting of skin and flesh/bone is often the result of a deceased’s body prolonged soaking in water. The skin that slips from the hands and feet typically slides off in a manner that resembles a glove. However, such slippage of skin may also occur in severe forms of inherited mechano-bullous disorders called epidermolysis bullosa.

Dermatoglyphics– The study of the surface patterns of the skin.

Dragon’s Blood Powder– Fingerprint powder made from the rattan palm resin. Greatly increases the probability of seeing latent prints on light, dark, and colorful surfaces.

Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (BPA) is the study of the shapes, sizes, and locations of bloodstains. The study also determines how the patterns and stains came to be distributed in the manner in which they’re found.

Here, for your CSI library, are a few terms to help the characters in your books sound as if they’ve attended The Graveyard Shift’s …

Homicide School

So sharpen your pencils, take a sip of coffee, and let’s begin …

Accompanying Drop– small blood droplet produced as a by-product when other drops strike a surface (potions of larger drops).

Altered Stain – bloodstain that changed since its original formation.

Angle of Impact – degree of incline/angle at which a blood drop strikes a surface.

Arterial Spurting Pattern – bloodstain pattern(s) caused as blood streams from the body due to pressure from a severed or punctured artery. Blood squirts from the wound with each beat of the heart.

Backspatter Pattern – a result of blood drops traveling in the opposite direction of the force applied, such as when a person is struck with a blunt object, or when flesh is penetrated by a bullet or other projectile.

Bloodstain – deposit of blood on any surface.

Bloodstain pattern – the grouping of bloodstains/droplets/smears, etc., that indicate the manner in which the blood was deposited.

Bubble Ring – circles, or rings, formed when blood containing air bubbles dries and retains the circular shape of those bubbles.

Cast-off Pattern – a bloodstain pattern that occurs when blood-drops are thrown from a blood-bearing object, such as when a killer repeatedly swings a bloody hammer.

Directionality – indicates the direction blood was moving at the time it struck a surface. The shape of the drops are good indicators of direction of travel.

Draw-Back Effect – blood in the barrel of a firearm that has been pulled/sprayed backward into the muzzle.

Drip Pattern – formed when blood drips into other blood.

Drip Stain – a free-falling drop that formed due to gravity.

Drip Trail – bloodstain pattern formed due to the movement of a source of drip stains (a bleeder, a bloody baseball bat that’s dripping blood, etc.).

Edge Characteristic – features of the perimeter of a bloodstain.

Expiration Pattern – bloodstain pattern caused when blood is forced, by air, from the nose, mouth, or a wound.

Forward Spatter Pattern – pattern formed by blood drops traveling in the same direction as the force that caused the spatter.

Bloodstain pattern investigation workshop – 2017 Writers’ Police Academy ~ RJ Beam, instructor

High Velocity Impact Spatter (HVIS) – pattern caused by a high velocity impact /force such as that produced by a gunshot or machinery—farm equipment, factory motors, gears, and mechanisms, etc.

Impact Pattern – bloodstain pattern caused when an object strikes liquid blood, sending smaller droplets in random directions.

Insect Stain – bloodstain resulting from insect activity.

Low Velocity Impact Spatter (LVIS) – bloodstain pattern caused by a low impact/force to a blood source.

Mist Pattern – pattern formed when blood is reduced to a fine spray of micro-drops due to the force applied.

Bloodstain pattern session …Dexter-style – 2017 Writers’ Police Academy

Parent Stain – bloodstain from which a satellite stain originated.

Point (Area) of Origin — The common point where the trajectories of several blood drops can be traced.

Pool – an accumulation of liquid blood on a surface.

Projected Pattern – pattern produced when blood is released under pressure, such as arterial bleeding.

Satellite Stain – smaller droplets that surround a parent stain as a result of blood striking a surface.

Saturation Stain – the accumulation of liquid blood in an absorbent material, such as bed linen or clothing.

Swipe Pattern – bloodstain pattern caused by the transfer of blood from a moving surface onto another, with characteristics that indicate motion/rubbing/swiping between the two surfaces.

Target – any surface onto which blood has been deposited.

Transfer Stain – bloodstain resulting from contact between a wet blood-bearing surface and another. Sometimes it’s possible to see a recognizable imprint/shape of the bloody object on the second surface.

Void – absence of blood in an otherwise continuous bloodstain or bloodstain pattern. Perhaps an object was there, in the area of the void, when the blood was deposited, blocking it from landing in that spot. Then someone moved the item afterward, leaving the clean section.

Wipe Pattern – created when an object moves through an existing wet bloodstain, altering its appearance.

** Attention Writers, Sponsors, Readers, and Fans **

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Writers’ Police Academy. That’s 10 years of helping writers “get it right” with actual hands-on police training.

We appreciate all the support over the years and we’re looking forward to the most thrilling and exciting event we’ve ever produced – #2018WPA. If you’ve ever wanted to attend the WPA, I STRONGLY urge you to do so this year. Openings are available.

Readers and fans are welcome to attend and train along with their favorite authors. Past attendees include Jeffery Deaver(2018 Guest of Honor), Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Tami D Hoag, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Christopher Reich, Lee Child, Lee Goldberg, Marsha Clark, Kendra Elliot-Boucher, Melinda Leigh, Katherine Ramsland and many, many more!

Again, If you’ve ever wanted to attend the WPA, I STRONGLY, WHOLEHEARTEDLY, urge you to do so this year. Openings are available … this year. Could be your last chance. I’m just saying …

“Get small, Spanky, Jr., here comes a ghetto bird!”

Not familiar with the terminology? No problem. Here’s G through H from our handy-dandy, mini crime writer’s dictionary.


Gabaloo – a real dumbass who believes he’s heaven’s gift to everything on earth—the best singer, the sexiest, etc.

Gag Order – When a defendant becomes unruly a judge may order that he be bound and gagged to prevent further disruptions. The term is also used when a judge orders attorneys, witnesses, etc. to not discuss a case outside the courtroom. Note – Some would prefer the bound and gagging approach be used on attorneys as well as a defendant/client.

Gear Hound – An officer who has far more equipment than that issued by the department. A gear hound is frequently seen shopping in police supply stores.

Get Small – Hide, or run away.

Ghetto Bird – Police helicopter.

Ghetto Cattle – A pack of feral or abandoned dogs.

Ghost Riding – A patrol car rolling down the street without a driver. Officers sometimes are in such a hurry when arriving at the scene they simply forget to shift to park.

GGW – Girls gone wild.

Gh3tto – Gangster

Good Cause – A legal excuse for doing something that’s typically considered illegal. (Think politicians).

Good Moral Character – Do NOT think politicians.

Gorilla Anus/Gorilla Ass – term used when someone refuses to do something you want them to do. “No, Lil’ Dirt Bag won’t go to the store to get me no Cheetos. He’s being a real gorilla ass.”

Gorilla Biscuits – an old street term for meth.  Zookeepers may have another definition.

Grass Widow – A woman separated from her husband by abandonment.

Grill – Teeth, or face.


Habeus Corpus – To bring a party before the judge.  The most common of the writs is to release a prisoner from unlawful imprisonment. Jailhouse lawyers make a living drafting these for fellow inmates.

Habeus Grab-Ass – To catch/arrest a suspect.


Hairbag – Rookie who thinks he knows it all, even if he’s only been on the job for an hour.

Hatch Act – Statute prohibiting federal, state, and local employees from participating in certain political activities.

Hats and Bats – Riot gear—helmets and batons.

Horner – A person/addict who inhales/snorts heroin rather than inject it.

Hillbilly Meth – Mountain Dew (soft drink). The soda was given the nickname due to its high sugar content.

Holster Sniffer – A woman who has sex with cops simply because they’re cops. AKA – Holster Humper, Cop Stalker, Badge Bunny.

Horizontal Highway Hostess – Prostitute who works the streets.

House Mouse – Officer who typically works behind a desk.


House Mouse

Hurrication – Time off work due to do storms.

Hooptie – Any car that’s still rolling despite troubles, such as windows that won’t roll up or down, hood or trunk lid wired shut with baling wire, missing window glasses covered with garbage bags and duct tape, broken taillights covered with red duct tape, missing hubcaps, radio antennae missing but replaced with coat hanger, and so on. “Lawdy, is Bubba still driving that old hooptie car his daddy bought from the junk yard? “

Hot Blood – When someone’s emotions/passions have been heightened to an uncontrollable degree. A case of “hot blood” may be cause to reduce a murderer’s charge to a lesser offense.

Hydrant Humper – Firefighter.

Hulk-Out – To become extremely angry in an instant. “Seargent, be careful with that guy. He’ll hulk-out on you in a heartbeat. Took six of us to get him cuffed last time.”


Has your protagonist ever been at a loss for the right words? Do her fans believe what she’s saying? Well, to help prevent those embarrassing moments, here are a few terms that might help when she’s out and about in Fictionville.


EC – Emergency Contact

EDP – Emotionally Disturbed Person

Eight Ball – 1/8th ounce of cocaine/meth/crack (3.5 grams).

Eighth Amendment – Prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bails and fines.

Embezzlement – Fraudulent appropriation of property or funds to one’s own use. It is a larceny.

En Banc – A matter that’s considered by the full court, such as all judges of an appellate court rather than only one or two.

Entrapment – Defense which excuses a defendant from criminal activity because that illegal activity was a result of government persuasion/trickery.

Erroist – Someone who repeatedly makes mistakes. A true dumbass.

ERT – Evidence Eradication Team (Fire and EMS personnel when they arrive on and trample the scene of, well, anything).

Exclusionary Rule – Prohibits the introduction of evidence acquired by improper or illegal police action (improper search and seizure, etc.).

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Extradition – The surrender by one state to another of an accused or convicted person. A state governor has the right to demand the return of a person/suspect as long as probable cause of a crime exists.

Eye Socket Stabilization – Nickname for the self defense tactic where the victim uses their fingers to gouge the eyes of an attacker. Very effective.



Fact-finder – Judge or jury charged with determining the facts of a court proceeding.

FADAR – Sitting on the side of the road giving the appearance of running radar, but with absolutely no intention of stopping a car. It’s a great tactic for reducing the speed of travelers. It’s also a great time to read a few pages from a favorite novel.

False Arrest – Unlawful restraint of one’s personal liberty.

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FD – Fire Department

Felony – A high/serious crime typically punishable by imprisonment (in prison, not jail), or death.

Felony Blue – When the chemical in a field test kit for cocaine turns blue. A positive result.

Fighting Words – Words that incite violence and breach of the peace, and that cause injury.

Fire Bomb – Any container of flammable material such as gasoline and/or kerosene or other chemical compound, and having a wick composed of any material which is capable of igniting the contained flammable material.

Flight – Leaving or concealment/hiding to avoid arrest.

Forcible Entry – Entering the property of another without that person’s permission. In some areas a mere trespass is considered forcible entry.

Fourth Amendment – Prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Fratricide – The killing of one’s brother.

FTD – Fixing To Die (used, particularly in the south, when describing a severely injured victim of a vehicle crash).“Rescue is on the way to the ER with the driver, but he’s FTD.”

Fresh Pursuit (Hot Pursuit) – An immediate, ongoing chase of a fleeing criminal suspect who is attempting to avoid capture. During a fresh pursuit officers may cross jurisdictional boundaries and they’re permitted to make an arrest of the fleeing subject without a warrant.

FTA – Failure To Appear (miss a court date).

Writers often find themselves searching for just the right police terminology or phrase. Unfortunately, the answers to their questions aren’t always available at a glance. You know the questions I’m talking about … Are kidnapping and abduction one in the same? And what the heck is a bucket head? Yeah, those kind of questions. Well, here’s a mini dictionary that might be of some use.


Abandonment:  Knowingly giving up one’s right to property without further intending to reclaim or gain possession. Abandoned property can be searched by police officers without a search warrant. Most states deem it illegal to abandon motor vehicles, and the owner may be summoned to civil court to answer charges, pay fines, or to receive notice of vehicle impoundment and disposal.

Abduction:  The criminal act of taking someone away by force, depriving that person of liberty or freedom. A person who has been kidnapped against their will has been abducted. This definition does not apply to a law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties.

*FYI writers – Local police agencies can and do investigate kidnapping/abduction cases. I’ve worked and solved several. The FBI does NOT have to be called for abduction cases.

Abscond:  To covertly leave the jurisdiction of the court or hide to avoid prosecution or arrest. A suspect who “jumps bail” or hides from police, while knowing a warrant has been issued for her arrest, has absconded from justice. Film director/producer Roman Polanski absconded to France before he could be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a minor.

AMBER Alert:  The AMBER alert was created in Dallas, Texas as a legacy to nine year-old Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. An AMBER alert is issued when law-enforcement officials determine a child has been abducted. Immediately after verification of the kidnapping, officials contact broadcasters and state-transportation officials, who in turn relay descriptions of the child and their abductor to radio, television, electronic road signs, and other highly visible sites.

Armed Robbery:  Robbery is the act of taking, or seizing, someone’s property by using force, fear, or intimidation. Using a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, to carry out the same robbery constitutes an armed robbery. You have NOT been robbed when someone breaks into your home while you’re away and steals your TV.

For example, I recently saw “Breaking News” headline that read something like, “FAMOUS MUSICIAN ROBBED.” I expected to read about a methed-up troll pointing a rusty knife at the rocker and then making off with his fortune. Instead, the story was about some loser who waited until no was looking and then stole five guitars from a deserted sound stage. Huge difference. This was not a robbery. Instead, it was larceny of property. There was no threat and no intimidation and no weapon of any kind. There wasn’t even anyone around to receive a dirty look from the thief.

A**hole:  Police slang for suspect or perpetrator. (You fill in the blanks. Hint: the first letters of Sinking Ship will work nicely. The same works for the next entry as well).

A**wipe:  Police slang for suspect or perpetrator.



B & E:  Break and enter (see Break and Enter).

Bad Check:  A check that has been drawn upon an account of insufficient funds, or on an account that has been closed. A person who writes and utters (cashes) a bad check is considered to have committed larceny, or the theft of cash money. Most states consider bad-check writing to be a misdemeanor; however, some states consider the offense to be a felony if the check is written for more than a specific amount set by law, such as a minimum amount of $200. Suspects who are arrested for writing and passing bad checks are usually released on their own recognizance, with their signed promise to appear in court for trial.

Badge Bunny:  Nickname given by police officers to females who prefer to date only police officers and firemen. Many of these badge bunnies actively pursue recent police academy graduates to the point of actually stalking the officers. Some have even committed minor offenses and made false police complaints to be near the officers they desire. Many police academies mention badge bunnies near the end of the officer’s academy training to prepare them for the possible situation.

Biological Weapon:  Agents used to threaten or destroy human life, e.g. anthrax, smallpox, E. coli, etc.

Picking up bacteria from agar plate. The brownish-red material is the agar. The grayish-yellow coloring at the top of the agar is E.coli bacteria. When incubated, the number of bacteria can double every twenty minutes. Yes, I took this photo, and I must say that it’s a bit intimidating to be in a room where scientists are hard at work with this stuff. And yes, those are the hands of my adorable, but deadly, wife. I sleep with one eye open…

Bitch:  1) Complain. 2) Typically, physically weak and passive prisoners controlled by other dominant inmates. The “bitch” is normally forced into performing sexual favors for controlling inmates. The submissive inmates are often forced into servitude for the duration of their sentences.

Bitch Slap:  Any open-handed strike to the face. The term is often used to describe a humiliating defeat. “It was embarrassing for John to be bitch-slapped by Larry, a man half his size.”

Blow:  Slang for cocaine.

Blow Away:  To kill someone by shooting.

BOLO:  Be On The Lookout. “Officers issued a BOLO at 0400 hours for the suspect of an armed robbery.” BOLO has replaced the use of APB (All Points Bulletin) in nearly all areas of the country.

Break and Enter:  These are the words used to describe the essential elements of a burglary in the night time. The actual breaking need only be a slight action, such as opening an unlocked window or pushing open a door that is already ajar. In some states, merely crossing the plane of an open window or door (in the night time) is all that’s needed to constitute a break. The intent to commit a felony in conjunction with the breaking must be present to constitute Breaking and Entering.

Bucket Head:  Term used to describe a motorcycle officer, because of the helmets they’re required to wear when riding.

Bust:  1) To place someone under arrest. 2) To conduct a police raid, especially a drug raid.



Can:  A prison or jail. “When does Riley get out of the can?”

Capias:  The process of seizing a person and/or their property for the purpose of answering a particular charge in a court of law. A judge can issue a Capias, also known as a Warrant for Failure to Appear, for anyone who has been summoned to court but does not appear. A Capias is normally issued by the court for suspects in criminal matters who fail to appear for their hearings and for witnesses who do not show up for their scheduled court appearances. A Capias is a criminal warrant, and the subject must be processed in the same way as any other criminal—he or she arrested, fingerprinted, and photographed. It is not unusual for a judge to dismiss the charge of  Failure to Appear once the person is actually brought to the courtroom and successfully completes his or her testimony.

Cooking The Books:  Fixing police reports to make certain high-crime areas appear safer. Also, a person who alters any type of records or documents is often said to be “cooking the books.”

Cop:  1) To steal something. “Susan copped two necklaces while the clerk was on the telephone.”  2) Slang for a police officer. Many police officers take offense to the term being used by the general public. Instead, those officers prefer to be addressed as police officers.

Cop a Plea:  To plead guilty to a lesser included offense to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

County Mounties:   Slang for sheriff’s deputies.

Crooked Zebra:   A referee who has been bribed to fix the outcome of a sporting event.

Crop Dusting:  Passing gas (flatulence) while walking through a crowd of people.



Deck:  A packet of narcotics.

Dirt Bag:  An old-school police nickname for a criminal suspect. “Cuff that dirt bag, Officer Jenkins. He’s wanted for murder.”

Do:  To kill someone. When are you gonna do that dirtbag, Sammy?”

DOA:  Dead on arrival.

Drop:  To take a drug by mouth; orally. “Cindy dropped a hit of acid three hours ago. She’s really tripping hard.”

Crime writer's dictionary


Junior Franklin, well known to all the local cops for his kiting expertise, was keeping-six in a beat up and rusty loser-cruiser while his KA, Little Larry Mazo, set a bit of Lex talionis in motion on the kiddie cop who once gave him a severe case of lead poisoning.

Not familiar with the terminology in the previous and somewhat odd sentence? No problem. Here’s K through M from our handy-dandy, mini crime writer’s dictionary.


KA – Known associate

Keepers – Thin leather straps used to attach a gun belt to an under belt, or dress belt.

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Belt keeper

Without belt keepers the duty belt would easily and quickly fall down to your ankles, especially when chasing someone through a dark alley.

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Two belt keepers positioned between handcuff cases

Keeping a Gambling House – A proprietor is said to be “keeping a gambling house” if he has knowledge and consents to gambling at or on his premises, or at a place under his control. If true, the proprietor is guilty of Keeping a Gambling House.

Keeping Six – Watching your back. The numerical reference is to the number six on a clock face. Standing at the center of the clock, facing twelve, six would be to your rear.

Kiddie Cop – School Resource Officer.

Kill – To deprive of life.

Kiting – Taking advantage of the time between when a check is deposited and when the funds are collected at another bank. This time period is known as “the float.” Drawing checks against deposits/funds which have not yet cleared. Writing checks against an account having funds insufficient to cover the check amount(s).

Kleptomania – An irresistible, uncontrollable propensity to steal things.

Knock and Announce – The rule that requires police to knock and announce their presence and purpose before entering a home. No-knock search warrants are the exception to the rule.



Laundering – Transfer of money gained illegally into legal channels for the purpose of hiding its true source.

Lawn Ornament – An intoxicated person who passed out in someone’s front yard.

Lay Witness – Person offering testimony who is not an expert on the subject matter at hand.

Lead Poisoning – Shot multiple times. “Wow, twenty-three gunshot wounds. The cause of death is definitely lead poisoning.”

Lex talionis – The law of retaliation. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.

Light ‘Em Up – Activate emergency/blue lights. Initiate a traffic stop. “That car matches the description of the one used in the armed robbery. Light ’em up.” This phrase was often used on the television show Southland.


Liquid Jesus – Pepper spray…because it has the capability to instantly convert the mean and nasty into sweet and compliant.

L.K.A. – Last Known Address

Lockdown – To temporarily confine prisoners to their cells during an emergency, or for added security during, after, or to prevent an “event.”.

Lockup – Temporary holding facility.

Looky-Loo – A person who cannot resist watching anything related to police, fire, EMS, train wreck, car crash, and general death and/or dismemberment. AKA Rubberneckers.

Loser Cruiser – A retired police car, now civilian-owned. Typically, the loser cruiser still has at least one spotlight still attached, as well as a couple of other police-type identifiers—antenna, etc. These cars are often purchased and driven by cop wannabe’s.



Mace-greff – In Old English law, one who buys stolen goods. A fence.

Mail Fraud – The use of the mail to defraud (mailing a letter to set a scheme in motion, or to continue the criminal act). Mail fraud is a federal offense.

Major Crimes – Unofficially, the broad classification of the most serious crimes—Murder, Rape, Robbery, etc. Lt. Leadfoot is the detective in charge of the Major Crimes Division.

Malice – Intentionally committing a wrongful act, with the intent of causing an injury of some type.

Manslaughter – Unlawful (inexcusable) killing someone without premeditation or malice.

M.E.  – Medical Examiner

Mens Rea – A criminal intent.

M.O. – Modus operandi, or method of operation. A pattern of behavior.

MCT – Mobile Computer Terminal

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Monger – A seller, or dealer. For example, fishmonger.

Mug Book – A collection of mugshots/photos of suspected and convicted criminals.

Mugshot – Photo taken of suspect during booking/processing.