What TV and Film Get Wrong about the Criminal Justice Process If you are the defendant in a criminal case, you may have numerous questions involving the court process and the charges filed against you. To many defendants, interaction with the criminal justice system is brand-new, other than what they have seen over television or in a movie.

The reality is very different from the make-believe, and many people think that what they see on TV is what actually happens. We wanted to clear up some of those misconceptions for you, so you can be prepared for what comes next.

The police must read you your Miranda rights immediately upon arrest

TV crime dramas often show police officers reading people their Miranda rights. Unless the officer is going to rely on your answers to convict you of the crime in question, he or she is not required to inform you of your rights. Before the police are required to issue a Miranda warning to you, as a suspect, two basic conditions must be in place:

  • You are in police custody
  • You are under interrogation

These prerequisites are important to understand. In turn, this also means that anything you say until the above two conditions are in place may be used against you as evidence.

As the victim, you decide if charges are dropped against someone

Although a victim may want to drop previous charges filed against the defendant, this prerogative does not belong to the victim. Once charges are filed, only the prosecution can decide how to move forward with the case. Prosecutors do evaluate and take into consideration the victim’s account of a particular incident; however, the prosecution alone determines whether charges are pursued against the alleged offender or not.

You must be physically arrested to be charged with a crime

Criminal cases often begin with an arrest. However, this is not always the case. In some felony cases, the defendant is indicted before a grand jury first. Subsequent to this indictment, as the accused, you may be served with a summons or citation that mandates your appearance in court on a particular day and time. This is done in lieu of an in-person formal arrest with handcuffs, as is often portrayed on TV dramas.

Fingerprint and DNA tests always solve cases

On television, the detectives always seem to find the perfect piece of forensic evidence that is the blockbuster key to solving the entire case, whether it is the individual’s fingerprint, or a fine strand of hair discovered on the rug. Then, the test results seem to come back within minutes or hours. In the real world, DNA does solve some cases. However, some DNA tests are inconclusive due to the difficulty of finding clean samples. Furthermore, it can take months to obtain a match. Crime lab results do not come back in a matter of minutes.

Cases always go to trial

In films, most of the cases go to court and involve high drama. However, in reality many defendants, along with their attorneys, reach a plea deal in advance of trial. In some cases, this arrangement significantly reduces the sentence and penalties the defendant would otherwise have faced upon conviction.

If your only experience with the criminal justice system has been through the lens of the entertainment industry, you may have expectations that will fall short after walking into a courtroom. You deserve an experienced Bowie defense lawyer who can prepare you for the real consequences of a criminal charge and conviction.

If you are facing a criminal charge, Carey Law Office is here to fight on your behalf to clear your record, protect your livelihood, and obtain an optimal outcome in your case. To schedule a free, initial consultation at one of our offices in Crofton or Bowie, call us today at 301.464.2500 or use our contact form to send us a request.