When it Comes to Criminal Law, TV Gets it Wrong

When it Comes to Criminal Law, TV Gets it Wrong


Posted on Feb 28th 2017

5 Things TV Shows Get Wrong About Criminal Law

Criminal justice shows such as “Law & Order”, “How to get Away with Murder”, and “Suits” are exciting, nerve wrecking, inspirational, and incredibly popular. The outreach of crime-related shows has even enticed people into pursuing a career in the criminal justice system. However, TV shows hide, manipulate, and even flat out ignore aspects of criminal law because in the end all that really matters are the ratings. Adam Stout, a Gainesville criminal lawyer at Stout Defense, P.A., points out some of the misconceptions between criminal law shows and real law.

“The Witness Breakdown”

Show: The prosecutor calls a witness to the stand and, in an unforeseen turn of events, that witness starts lying through her teeth. In a desperate attempt to force the truth or get the witness to slip up, the attorney rushes into the witness’s face. The attorney yells, calling out her lies until eventually she cracks and admits everything in the midst of a breakdown.

Reality: While this is a typical scene during the climax of a show, it is unrealistic. Attorneys might make a witness feel uncomfortable and dissect their words, but they cannot aggressively approach a witness on the stand. In order to protect the witnesses, attorneys are forbidden from getting too close and verbally assaulting the witness.

“The Case to Win it All”

Show: The attorney is sitting in her office surrounded by books the night before the court date. While flipping through pages, she finds a critical case on the page, points at it with her finger, lets out a sigh of relief, and wins the case the next day.

Reality: Preparation of a case can take days or research and weeks to prepare. After writing down what was researched, the material is presented to the opposing attorney and to the judge for review and vice versa. Also, if a case is that important for winning a trial, it is probably well-known and not hidden within text.

“Striking a Deal with the Defendant”

Show: The prosecutor meets with the defendant and offers him a deal. In the midst of confusion and fear, the defendant takes the deal hoping it will benefit him despite his lawyer advising against it.

Reality: In real law, attorneys have to follow certain rules of ethics. One of those rules states that a lawyer cannot talk to a person when he/she knows that that person is represented by an attorney. Sneaking private conversations with the defendant could lead to disbarment.

“No Repercussions for the Attorney”

Show: The defendant and defense attorney are backed up against the wall, and in a final attempt to sway the jury, the defense attorney stands up and presents a false story to gain more time, stall the case, or even flip it onto the prosecutor.

Reality: While many attorneys lie on TV shows for the benefit of their clients without any consequences, the same is not true in real life. If an attorney is found involved in illegal acts such as lying, he/she will have serious consequences including have his/her license revoked.

Criminal Attorney in Gainesville, FL

As compelling and entertaining as criminal law shows might be, in the end they are fictional fabrications that incorporate the legal justice system but have drastic differences from the real practice of law. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime and are in need of an attorney, it is important to be aware of these differences. Stout Defense, P.A. can provide you with a Gainesville criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced. Contact us today for a consultation.