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Three Criminal Justice Myths We See on TV Shows

Do you watch crime shows on television? If so, you’re not alone. Crime shows of all types are some of the most popular and beloved series on the silver screen, with some of the biggest names running for years. While some of these shows go through rigorous efforts to make the stories as realistic and believable as possible, the truth of the matter is that criminal justice in its purest form just isn’t entertaining. Thus, producers, directors, and writers all need to take some creative liberties and stretch the truth to create a product that’s exciting to watch.

What that means is that we often see a number of myths or fabrications which don’t actually exist in real life. While they make the story more interesting, they detract from the realistic nature of the show in order to create the ideal end product: entertainment. Unfortunately this often leads to confusion for those who are facing criminal charges in their real lives, and possibly some case-jeopardizing mistakes. On this blog, we’ll take a look at three of the most popular TV crime show myths and explain how things actually work here in the real world.

“I Want My One Phone Call”

We hear it all the time: officers telling those they’ve arrested that they get one phone call to reach out for help before they’re cut off and locked up. Do you call a lawyer? Your family to let them know what happened? Your best friend to come bail you out? Your neighbor to feed your dog? The decision seems like it’s unbelievably difficult, right?

Well if you don’t think you could make it, then consider yourself fortunate you don’t have to. The truth of the matter is you’re not limited to just one phone call. In fact, you can make as many as you’d like. However, phone calls are not a right; they’re a privilege and one that’s not to be abused. If officers find that you’re making too many calls or using them frivolously, they’ll take the privilege away just like that. If you’re on your best behavior and you make it clear who you would like to call beforehand and why, officers will usually let you have those calls.

DNA Evidence Solves Everything

We’ve all seen shows where detectives investigating the scene find a strand of suspicious hair, which they bring to a lab for DNA testing that breaks open a massive lead which eventually solves the case. In fact, one might even argue it’s becoming an overplayed plot device in crime dramas. However, in the real world it’s an extremely powerful tool and has led to both convictions an exonerations.

But that being said it’s not a quick process. Hollywood doesn’t have weeks or even months to wait for the results of a test like the real world requires—they have an hour. So the timeline gets compressed a bit and you get the supercomputer which turns out a perfect match after just a few minutes. In reality, finding a clean DNA sample that can be used for testing is extraordinarily rare and finding a match on it is even more difficult. The same can be said for fingerprints: finding a clean sample that can be used for comparison is nearly impossible and finding a match can take months, if one even exists.

“I Know My Rights”

The climax of the show involves the detectives finally catching up with the perpetrator and making the arrest, sometimes involving a snappy one-liner. The crook then says something and the officer tells them they’re under arrest and immediately starts into their Miranda rights. You know, the whole “You have the right to remain silent” speech.

These rights are important, and the fabrication here isn’t that officers read the arrested individual their rights, but rather that this is done as soon as someone is arrested. In reality, rights are not usually read until someone who has been arrested is going to be subjected to questioning. That way law enforcement can figure out if the person being questioned is going to request having an attorney present, which then takes more time. If you are going to be subjected to questioning, it’s strongly advised you take advantage of this right and contact an attorney to ensure you receive proper guidance throughout the process.

Have you been arrested? Contact the Law Offices of William D. Thompson today at (570) 666-1068 to request a case evaluation and start standing up for your freedom.