medical/law enforcement questions

Do psychiatric facilities generally fingerprint their patients?

If cops were to get hold of bloodstained clothing, how long would it take to run an analysis on the blood? And what information would that give? How about analyzing non-visible blood residue on a knife?

(I’m trying to clear some written-but-not-revised stories out of here.)

0 Responses to “medical/law enforcement questions”

  1. gollumgollum

    My understanding is that psychiatric facilities do not. If someone was arrested and then placed on a hold/committed (being committed is a process where your right to decide for yourself is taken away because you’re considered to be a danger to yourself and/or others and not capable of making those decisions about yourself, a decision which is made by a judge. Being placed on a hold–usually 24 hours, longer if it’s a weekend and there’s no judge available–is basically like being committed but very short-term, because it’s being held involuntarily until they can get you in front of a judge to have you committed. Those are involuntarily commitments. Then you can voluntarily commit yourself, which is where you recognize that you’re not in your right mind and essentially turn yourself in; i can’t remember if you surrender those rights or if you can voluntarily un-commit yourself), they might get fingerprinted, but it’s not something psych facilities do as a matter of course.

    • Marie Brennan

      Excellent, thanks. The character in question is suspected of having been hospitalized before, but if they don’t fingerprint as a matter of course, then nobody will be able to find out for sure — which is exactly what I want.

      • gollumgollum

        Yeah, i’m pretty sure that here in the US, that’s information covered by HIPAA, the privacy act (among other things)–it’s part of your medical record. Again, as long as there’s not an arrest, i don’t think it’s findable.

  2. desperance

    I can only speak for the UK, which is of course different; but on the psych question, absolutely not. If a patient had passed first through the arms of the law and been charged with an offence, they’d have been fingerprinted by the police, but certainly not by or at a psychiatric facility. (Unless perhaps their identity were unknown, and someone was trying to trace it; under those circumstances, perhaps, but consent would be an issue.)

    On the bloodstained-clothing issue, again this is UK experience, but the significant time is not how long the test takes, it’s how long it takes to get to the head of the queue before it’s done. Which can be weeks. There is always a backlog of evidence waiting to be processed.

    And somewhere on my f-list is a CSI who could answer all your questions more usefully; or I could pursue an offline acquaintance, who does the same job over here and will know what she gets from blood. But it might be days before I can be in touch with her.

    • Marie Brennan

      The story’s set in the U.S., but what you describe sounds a lot like what other people are saying, anyway. I think I’ve got enough data for my purposes. Thanks!

  3. wishwords

    1. Not unless you were arrested first. 2. Several weeks. 3. Blood type, DNA, possibly other things the investigators were looking for but limited due to amount of blood. 4. No idea.

    1 is from personal experience. 2 & 3 are gleaned from the news reports and bits I’ve seen on the Internet complaining about CSI shows.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, I think I’ve been skewed by TV, hence asking. 🙂 It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the actual testing of the blood doesn’t take long, but getting it tested may involve a waiting period.

  4. artemisgrey

    As a rule, public psychiatric facilities do not. If you have a criminal record, they’ll likely have prints on file, but they won’t take them when you enter the facility. Now, some private facilities might take prints of workers/patients, depending on their own policies, but that would probably be for security of the patients more than anything else.

    Results on a blood analysis generally take anywhere from 8 weeks to several months, at least in VA. That timeline can be altered, depending on the condition of the sample, if you’re looking for anything specific (like you already have a sample to compare it to, or if you have a narrowed suspect field within which you intend to run comparisons) and the profile of the case. Case in point: They rushed all the processing thing on the Morgan Harrington case, but because samples were so degraded, they’re STILL trying to sort through it all.

    From a simple blood stain, you’d get info like a DNA profile (assuming it isn’t too degraded) blood type, sex of the donor, possible indications of certain diseases and drugs present within the bloodstream at the time the bloodstain was caused. You might also be able to determine if the owner of the blood is, indeed, dead, if the body is missing, based off of the size of the bloodstain. Sometimes, it’s possible to get more than one DNA profile from a single bloodstain, if the perp was bleeding too.

    Non-visible blood residue would probably take a little longer than a large bloodstain, particularly if they already have something to compare it to, and want to make a match. Smaller blood sample means that it’s vital not to screw up, since there likely won’t be enough material for a second attempt. So it would get special care if it’s a proposed murder weapon that they’re trying to link to a certain crime.

    • Marie Brennan

      The cops are attempting to determine if a crime’s been committed, so I imagine — if I want the blood test to return in a timely manner — I can say they’re rushing it for that reason.

  5. sillylilly_bird

    a resource

    I’m not a writer, but I find this blog interesting. He takes questions too.

  6. moonandserpent

    No, they don’t.

    Now if there was an arrest and the person in question were remanded into the custody of a psych care facility, then the police would have done fingerprinting. (Oh, wait, as others have said… I’m sleepy.)

    But no, I feel I speak from a position of expertise on this one, too 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      That’s exactly what I was hoping for. The character’s been fingerprinted now, but they won’t have a good way to track her previous movements.

  7. erdedrache

    Pretty much what everyone else said, but I’ll also add that DNA anaysis time depends heavily on backlog, which depends on who does it (the LEA, a state-funded lab, or a private contractor).

    Non-visible blood residue is often functionally useless, aside from being identified as blood. When you’re dealing with that little blood, as might leak between the grip and tang of a knife or get stuck in the grip pattern, there’s usually very little DNA or other data to be had. Not that it CAN’T be collected, but doing so is usually so expensive and yields such legally unreliable evidence that it’s impractical.

    • Marie Brennan

      Good to know. I figured it would be easy to say that yes, there was blood here, but I didn’t know if they’d be able to do a comparison with the blood on the clothing to see if it came from the same source.

  8. unquietsoul5

    Writers Digest Books did do a series of books on crime, criminology and CSI kind of data gathering a few years ago (mid 90s?) for writers. I don’t know if they have been updated since then, I have the old ones on my shelf back from when I had a book club membership.

    I do know that the older the blood the less useful it becomes, though the DNA fingerprint of it lasts longer, as it decays.

    is right that non-visible residue is useless for the chemical side of analysis due to amount, but it can still be useful in studying blood splatter information (which can be important in many cases).

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