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Separating Fact from Fiction in Legal TV Shows

Legal TV shows are quite popular among Americans, as they offer viewers a rousing combination of crime, drama, and intellect. Of course, you can’t believe everything you see on television. As it turns out, most of these shows are very inaccurate and portray a wild exaggeration of the legal profession. If you’re having trouble separating fact from fiction when it comes to legal dramas, read on about the four common falsehoods that show up in the most popular shows on TV.

1. Lawyers regularly disrespect judges in the courtroom.

In many legal dramas, lawyers lose their cool and talk back to the judges in the middle of a trial. In real life, lawyers rarely show such disrespect to judges. Doing so would result in a public reprimand or a bench fine, yet in TV shows, judges do little more than gently scold the impertinent lawyer.

2. Cases are resolved in several short days.

In reality, cases are rarely resolved as quickly as they are on TV. One can see why directors would want to shorten the timeline of trials, as viewers would grow tired of watching cases drag on for multiple episodes. Nonetheless, the haste in which cases are brought to trial and verdicts are reached on television gives Americans a very unrealistic view of the legal process.

3. Lawyers are never in their offices.

Most legal shows only portray trial lawyers doing exciting tasks like meeting with clients, tracking down witnesses, and scoping out crime scenes. In actuality, many lawyers spend the majority of their time alone in their offices, reading through legal cases and filling out forms in order to prepare for trials. In comparison, very little of a lawyer’s time is spent in the courtroom.

4. The CSI effect.

The “CSI effect” refers to how real-life jurors are influenced by watching TV investigators procure evidence through high-tech methods involving forensic tests. Jurors are now demanding this kind of evidence in trials, not realizing the impracticality of their requests. Shows like CSI make it seem so simple to lift fingerprints off an object at a crime scene while in reality, fingerprints are difficult to acquire and the criminal justice system does not have the resources to call in forensic investigators for every minor infraction. This falsehood is perhaps the most harmful of all, as jurors’ high expectations due to legal shows have serious implications in the courtroom.

The next time you’re watching your favorite crime drama, look out for these four falsehoods! Though entertaining, most legal shows are riddled with inaccuracies and give Americans a very unrealistic view of how the legal system really works.