The Most Common Criminal Justice System Myths in TV Shows

By: Guest
July 28 2021

Many people nowadays love watching crime TV shows. No surprise here, as the immersive plots, drama, mystery, and thrill can surely keep people glued and at the edge of their seats at least for an hour or so. While undoubtedly entertaining, these shows often have a few downsides.

For instance, unless you are a criminal defense lawyer, you won’t be able to tell that there is a lot of misinformation about how the criminal justice system works depicted in these shows. This can confuse those who are facing criminal charges or arrested for criminal offenses in real life.

If anything, it is crucial that individuals dealing with a criminal charge should not believe some of the misconceptions portrayed in the media. Below are some of the most prevalent criminal justice system myths depicted in TV shows and the truths behind them:

Myth #01: Crime scene evidence can be processed swiftly.

In most crime TV shows, crime scene evidence is often processed quickly, and the results are made available in just a matter of days. If you follow at least one crime series, you probably noticed how fast law enforcement officers could process evidence like fingerprints and DNA and get the results back in just a few hours.

In reality, crime scene evidence can take days, weeks, and even months to process. This can be attributed to several factors like the backlogs in the laboratory, the sheer number of cases forensic scientists are processing, and the quality of the evidence submitted.

While the FBI’s CODIS database has the world’s largest repository of DNA records, there will always be instances where the DNA or fingerprints are highly degraded or poorly preserved and can no longer be identified. It is also possible that the fingerprints or DNA have not been stored in the CODIS database yet.

Myth #02: Cases are wrapped up quickly.

Another misconception often illustrated in crime shows is how short it takes to wrap the cases up from start to end. In real life, building a solid case is a painstaking process that would require time and patience. Not only that, it would also need more than just forensic evidence.

Apart from tedious and time-consuming lab work, the FBI will also look for and interview witnesses, investigate the crime scene and prepare their case. All these, including the conviction process, will take time. Contrary to what’s typically shown on crime TV, cases can sometimes take years to solve. Sometimes, they are not solved at all.

Myth #03: DNA evidence and fingerprints can solve any case.

In crime shows on TV, it’s odd how detectives can easily find fingerprints or a strand of hair at the crime scene that proves pivotal in solving the case. While there is no denying DNA can be compelling evidence, there are not as many real-world cases that have been solved using fingerprints or DNA.

This might not be common knowledge, but it can be tough to find clean DNA evidence in most crime scenes. Clean fingerprints are very rare. In addition, a sample of the suspect’s DNA to compare the evidence with will also be required. Otherwise, the evidence will prove useless.

Myth #04: The police are required to read Miranda Rights upon arrest.

Many crime TV shows have led many viewers to believe that the police need to read them their Miranda Rights during their arrest. It is implied that if the arresting officer fails to read the Miranda rights, the case can be dismissed because it’s a violation of police protocol. There is no truth to this.

While it is true that police officers need to inform persons under arrest of their right to an attorney and their right to remain silent, officers don’t have to read these rights right away. Miranda v. Arizona states that persons under arrest should be informed of these rights before being questioned about the offense.

Also, even if the police forget to read your Miranda Rights, it won’t be enough reason for the case to be dismissed. However, it can make any evidence that has been obtained inadmissible in court.

Final Thought

Surprisingly, many criminal justice system myths are depicted in TV shows. If you face a criminal charge, it would be in your best interest to check with a lawyer rather than merely relying on the information shown on crime TV.

Author Bio:

Stephanie Gordon currently works as the Content Marketing Strategist for the Arizona Criminal Law Team. Aside from spreading awareness about criminal law and defense, she enjoys reading and trail running with her family and friends.


This is a guest post by Stephanie Gordon. This post has been edited for syntax and grammar.  The Law offices of Jay Leiderman is not responsible for the accuracy of the content herein or any opinions or ideas expressed herein.  This post is for entertainment and literary value and is not intended as legal advice.  This post does not establish an attorney-client relationship of any sort.  If you have legal questions about ideas presented herein please contact a lawyer knowledgeable in this field of practice.

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