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Law enforcement has a language all its own, and without a translator citizens sometimes feel left out of the conversation. Here are a few simple terms worth remembering and maybe inserting into a tale or two.

Affidavit – a written statement of facts given under oath.

Bond/Bail – money or other security posted with the court to guarantee an appearance.

  • Bail is a monetary sum paid by the defendant that allows their release from jail. If the subject fails to appear in court the sum paid is forfeited to the court.
  • Bond is similar to securing a loan, where a person offers collateral for the amount borrowed. For example, a bail bonds-person pays the offender’s bail on their behalf in exchange for a fee, typically 10-15% of the total bail amount. In doing so, the bond company guarantees the subject will appear on their scheduled day for trial/hearing. Should the offender not appear, the bail/bond company must forfeit the entire amount of the money they paid the court on behalf of their client. This is why bail bonds-people hunt down, or hire bounty hunters to locate the missing offenders—to avoid paying those often large sums of money.
  • Property bonds are allowed in some cases. This is where a piece of property of value equal to or exceeding the bail amount is secured as collateral for the release of the offender. Should the offender not appear as promised, the property is forfeited to the court or the bond company who posted the bail. The equity of the property must be greater than the amount owed.
  • Signature bonds are sometimes used for low risk offenders. They’re allowed to sign a form promising to appear on the date required. If they fail to do so they’re required to pay the full bail fee in addition to other court costs and restitution.

* On August 28, 2018, California governor Jerry Brown signed into legislature a law eliminating cash bail as a means to bring the bail system into a more equal state for the rich and the poor. Oftentimes, people of lesser means sit in jail for months simply because they cannot afford to pay the amount of bail set for their offense. Whereas, wealthy people have no trouble paying their bail amounts and are set free.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “A person whose risk to public safety and risk of failure to appear is determined to be “low” would be released with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions possible. ‘Medium-risk’ individuals could be released or held depending on local standards. ‘High-risk’ individuals would remain in custody until their arraignment, as would anyone who has committed certain sex crimes or violent felonies, is arrested for driving under the influence for the third time in less than 10 years, is already under supervision by the courts or has violated any conditions of pretrial release in the previous five years.”

Read the full story by click the article title below.

Jerry Brown signs bill eliminating money bail in California

Badge Bunny – woman obsessed with cops (I mean really obsessed … well, you get the idea). Cop groupies.

Basket Weave – design that’s stamped into a leather gun belt.

Break Leather – drawing a firearm/weapon from its holster.

“Drawing” a service weapon.

CI – confidential informant.

City – referring to officers who work for city police departments. “The city will handle that case.” The same is so for county and state.

Civil case – a private lawsuit, not one brought by the state.

Complaint – a statement given under oath where someone accuses another person of a crime. Officers may also refer to a call as a complaint. “Man, I caught two loud music complaints in one hour last night.”

Complainant – person who accuses another. Or, someone who called the police. “Respond to 666 Mockingbird Lane. The complainant’s name is Ralph Munster, the cousin to that other nut, the one who lives down the street at 1313.”

Cook – make crack cocaine or methamphetamine.

Cooker – person who makes crack cocaine or methamphetamine.

Driving Miss Daisy – having an older, supervisory officer riding along on patrol. “Just my luck, I’m stuck with driving Miss Daisy tonight.”

Duracell Shampoo – using a metal flashlight to deliver a polite “love tap” to a combative suspect’s head. No longer a permitted technique/tactic, for obvious reasons.

Fish Eye – a person is said to “fish eye” when he knows an officer is watching him, so he pretends not to notice. However, he’s quite obviously watching the officer out of the extreme corner of his eye while trying to keep his head aimed straight ahead.

“Watch Carl Crook. He’s giving you the fish eye. I’ll bet he rabbits.”

Flashlight Therapy – using a metal flashlight to deliver a polite “love tap” to a combative suspect’s head. Not permitted as a tactic in most agencies, but when a life is in danger, well, anything goes.

Foot Bail – to run from the police.

Happy Feet – suspect is a runner, or is about to flee. “Watch that guy. Looks like he’s got happy feet.”

Hit – outstanding warrant, or stolen. “We got a hit on that car.”

Hook ’em Up – to handcuff a prrisoner.

Hot – stolen.

Information – Paperwork (document) filed by a prosecutor that accuses someone of a crime.

John Wayne – excessive use of force. “He went all ‘John Wayne’ on that guy.”

Knock and announce – requirement that officers knock on the door and announce their presence when serving a search warrant. “Police. Search warrant!”

Lead Poisoning – multiple gunshot wounds. “Look at all the bullet holes. He must’ve died of lead poisoning.”

Light ‘Em Up – initiate a traffic stop by turning on blue lights. Also used as an unofficial command to begin firing at a suspect(s).

OIC – officer in charge.

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins, Chief Deputy of the Cornsqueezin’ County Sheriff’s Office.

PC – probable cause. “Do you have enough PC to get a warrant?”

Plastic – credit card.

Priors – previous arrests.

Rabbit – run from the police.

Railroad Tracks – Slang term for the two bars on each collar denoting the rank of captain.

Captain Ghoul, graveyard shift commander and supervisor of K-9 units

Ride the chair – die by electrocution.

I witnessed the execution of the notorious serial killer Timothy Spencer, nicknamed The Southside Strangler. Spencer’s case was the basis of Patricia Cornwell’s first book, Post Mortem.

The Night I Watched a Serial Killer Die

Ride the needle – Die by lethal injection.

Roll up – arrest someone.

Stripes – a sergeant’s patch or insignia.

T-Bone – broadsided in an crash.

Verbal – a warning. “I gave him a verbal, but next time his butt’s going to jail.”

Visual – able to see something or someone. “Have you got a visual?”

UC – undercover officer.

Me, during my time working undercover narcotics.

Walk – to get off a charge. Released without a record. “Man, rich people walk all the time. It’s not fair!”

Write – issue a summons.

“Did you write him?”

“Yep. 87 in a 55.”

VIN – Vehicle Identification number. “Run the VIN on that car to see if you get a hit.”


“Write “Believable Make-Believe.”

ASCLD – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

AFIS – Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Palmprint storage and search capabilities are also in place.

ALPS – Automated Latent Print System.

ASCLD/LAB – American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Acid Fuchsin – Reddish protein stain used to enhance bloody friction ridge detail of fingerprints.

Acid Yellow 7Fluorescent dye stain used to help visualize latent prints left in blood on nonporous surfaces.

Acid Yellow-7, Arrowhead Forensics

Acidified Hydrogen Peroxide – Solution used to develop friction ridge detail on cartridge casings by etching the surface of the casing not covered with sebaceous material (oils and/or fats).

Adactylia – Congenital absence of fingers and/or toes.

Adermatoglyphia – Extremely rare congenital absence of fingerprints.

Alanine – The most common amino acid found in proteins. Alanine is often
used to test latent print chemicals for an amino acid reaction.

Aluminum Chloride – A metal salt used to treat ninhydrin developed latent prints.

Amicus Brief – Legal document filed by someone not associated with a case but possibly has knowledge of a subject matter that may be of interest to the courts.  The person submitting the brief is known as amici curiae.

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

Amido Black – Bluish-black stain used to enhance bloody fingerprint friction ridge detail.

Anhidrosis – Medical condition that reduces or prevents the body’s ability to sweat.

Benzidine – Once described as the best technique for developing bloody latent prints on nonporous items, Benzidine has been linked to cancers and is no
longer used.

Bichromatic ™ – A multi-colored powder used to process an object for fingerprints.

Boiling – Method used to re-hydrate the friction skin/fingerprints/footprints of a deceased person. To process the prints water is boiled and them removed from the heat. The hand of the deceased is submerged in the water for approximately five seconds. The skin is then dried and the fingers and/or palm is printed.

CJIS – Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Calcar Area – The area located at the heel of the foot.

Cheiloscopy – The study of lip prints.

Clandestine – In secret.

Cluster Prints – More than one fingerprint grouped/clumped/positioned in the same spot of a surface.

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

Core – Center of a fingerprint pattern.

Dactylography – The study of fingerprints as a method of identification.

Degloving – The accidental/unintentional separation of the skin from the hands or feet. This “skin slippage” often occurs after a body has been submerged in water for a period od time.

Diff-Lift™ – Fingerprint lifting tape made especially for use on textured objects.

Dorsal – The backside of the hand.

Erroneous Exclusion – Disregarding evidence without a sound basis for doing so.

Exemplar – The known prints of a known individual.

FLS – Forensic Light Source. Includes all light sources used in forensic examinations.

FRE – Federal Rules of Evidence.

Fingerprint Society – Yes, it’s a thing. The Fingerprint Society was conceived in 1974 by Martin J. Leadbetter.

Genipin – A reagent used to develop friction ridge detail on porous items. The result is a dark blue image that can be seen without enhanced lighting.

Hallux – A person’s big toe.

Sir William James Herschel – The first European to recognize and utilize the value of fingerprints for identification purposes.

Histology – The study of the microscopic structure of animal or
plant tissues.

Hot Breath TechniqueBreathing on a latent fingerprint either to help visualize the print or to add moisture back into an older latent print. Also known as Huffing.

Hyperhidrosis – Medical condition that increases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity.

Hypohidrosis – Medical condition that decreases sweating. Sometimes caused by certain medications, or heredity or damage to the skin.

IAFIS – Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The FBI’s first
fully automated AFIS computer database.

Image Reversal – Occurs when the friction ridges in a latent print are reversed. Unintentional transferred prints could occur when using rubber lifters. It’s even happened when items are stacked on top of one another (stacks of evidence bags, for example), causing a print to transfer from one item to the next. The same is true with books. A print from one page could transfer to the next page (after the book is closed for a long time). These prints are mirror images and should be obvious to a trained examiner.

Latent Print – Print that is visible to the naked eye.

Liqui-drox – Fluorescent (yellow) solution used to enhance/develop fingerprint friction ridge detail on the adhesive and non-adhesive sides of dark colored tape.

Loupe – Small magnifying glass used to examine prints.