5 Things Police Shows Get All Wrong

5 Things Police Shows Get All Wrong

If you watch police shows like Law and Order, CSI, The Closer, Major Crimes, and other, similar dramas you might have gotten some skewed ideas about our criminal justice system. Shows like this perpetuate common tropes which don’t always bear much relationship to reality.

And you can actively harm your own case if you believe these myths. Here are the five most damaging ones.

Law enforcement always gets it right.

In police shows, principled detectives leave no stone unturned. If they come across any inconsistency which indicates the suspect they’re pursuing might be innocent, they stop and look for another.

In reality, investigations aren’t so cut-and-dried. There usually isn’t a smoking gun, and some evidence can weaken other evidence. Even forensic evidence isn’t necessarily a smoking gun. Both the prosecution and the defense build evidence up, brick by brick, to create a convincing case to support their position.

This means quite simply that police may arrest you even if they find evidence that seems to weaken or contradict their case. Some unscrupulous officers will even find ways to create evidence where none existed. And once officers feel like they have enough evidence to make their case, they move on to the next case. They’re often overloaded, pressed for time, and pressed for resources. Even the most principled officers don’t always have time to run down every angle.

Sadly, New York is one of the states with the most wrongful convictions. This fact alone should be enough to help you stop believing this myth.

See also: Is DNA Evidence Always Foolproof?

You can talk your way out of jail.

Police rely on this myth. They want you to believe you can use an interrogation to convince them to let you go.

They want you to believe if you’re innocent, you have every reason to speak to them.

In reality, there is nothing you can say to the police which can help your case. They think you’re guilty, or you wouldn’t be there. And you may make statements which you think are innocuous, or which tend to prove your innocence.

Some of those statements can be very useful to the prosecution. You could place yourself in the vicinity of the crime without even knowing it, for example. And they can definitely lie to you to trip you up.

It’s always best to exercise your right to silence. No matter what.  Tell the police you won’t speak without your attorney present. Then remain silent as long as it takes.

See also: You Have the Right to Remain Silent: A History of the Miranda Warning.

Court cases happen overnight.

Your first appearance in court isn’t your trial. It’s your arraignment, where you enter your initial plea.

It can take months for your case to go to trial, and trials can take a long time, too.

If you can’t post bail you might spend all that time in jail. This is why many people opt for plea bargains, though plea bargains aren’t always a good deal.

If the prosecution’s case is weak enough, a good defense attorney can sometimes talk them into re-evaluating their case and even dropping the charges.

No matter what, it’s important to get in the right mindset when you’re accused of a crime. There’s a process ahead, and you have to get through it.

See also: Arraignment in New York: What to Expect, and Should You Accept? The Advantages and Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining.

A confession is iron-clad proof of guilt.

Police extract false confessions more often than you think. They’re very good at wearing people down psychologically. Exercising your right to remain silent and asking for an attorney is the only way to prevent that process from taking place.

It doesn’t help your case to confess, though, even if it is a false confession.

Innocence can protect you.

In cop shows, innocent people get a triumphant return to their families. Jurors understand the case perfectly. Courtroom “gotcha” moments make the proper course of action clear.

In reality, there are a few gotcha moments. Sometimes witness testimony flies over the head of the jurors. Sometimes they hear a piece of evidence and don’t recognize its significance. Sometimes bias informs their decisions. Sometimes jurors get so bored they’re not even listening anymore.

This is why you want a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side.  A lawyer that will take the time to study your case, digging into it to decide how best to defend and advise you. A lawyer who arrives in court fully prepared to fight.

If you’re in trouble, don’t rely on Law and Order to tell you what to do. Contact the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman for a free consultation today.