Everyone loves a good police or courtroom drama. They are plenty fun and there are a lot to choose from. However, don’t think that what happens on those TV shows are how things work in the real world. There are many things that Hollywood consistently gets wrong about the legal process. Here’s a list of the top five things that happen in Tinseltown, but never happen in the real world.
The Timeline of a Case
In most TV shows, it seems like an entire case can be opened, worked, and solved within a matter of a couple of days. After that, the detectives and lawyers just move on to the next case. However, big cases can last months or even years. This clearly isn’t the case in Law and Order, in which a case almost always has to be resolved by the end of the episode.
There Are Different Types of Bail
Just because someone got $100,000 bail doesn’t mean they can’t afford it. Usually when the bail is high, TV shows portray those that aren’t as well-off being unable to pay it—in fact, in a recent bail hearing in Toronto, a bail of over one million dollars was met within hours of being set. A legal representative from Hicks Adams LLP says it is rare to have bail this high, except for violent crimes, though not unheard of. When the accused cannot come up with the money to pay such high bail, property bonds allow them to provide property to act as a bond. The defendant can also use a surety bond by enlisting the help of a bail bondsman. All in all, you don’t need cash to pay to pay your bail.
Bad Guys Don’t Actually Confess
Since the episode has to end in a timely manner, the accused almost always end up confessing to at least part of their crime during the interrogation process. In real life, the accused can simply say, “I want to see my lawyer,” and that would be the end of interrogation until the prosecuting attorney examined them before the jury on their court date.
Beatings Don’t Actually Work
Beating a confession out of someone is another one of Hollywood’s favorite tropes. Who doesn’t like seeing a violent criminal get the tar beat out of them by the good guys until they confess? There are laws in place, however, to protect the accused in the event of police violence. Once an interrogator resorts to physical violence, anything that the accused says in inadmissible in court.
The Defense Isn’t Always a Scumbag
The public defender is almost always portrayed as some slimy scumbag who is needlessly antagonistic towards the prosecution. It makes sense, in a way: if the public defender is too nice of a person, you may end up rooting for the bad guy. To make sure you’re cheering for the team they want you to support, movie and TV directors usually opt for vilifying the defense attorney. Most people, however, know that legal defense is a job just like any other. Because the accused in guaranteed legal defense provided by them state if they are unable to provide any for themselves, many defense lawyers are in the government’s employ and not at all personally inclined towards getting criminals off the hook.
All in all, there are many things that Hollywood gets wrong about the law and the legal process. Most of these stereotypes and misunderstandings are perfectly harmless. You may have a problem, however, if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law and you reference the latest episode of Law & Order as the source of all your legal knowledge.