15 Lies About the Legal System We Learned From Movies & TV

Who doesn't love a good courtroom drama? Well, guess what -- lawyers and judges hate drama in the courtroom. The less exciting a case, the better for everyone involved -- which is why movies and TV have to cheat to turn the law into entertainment. Which isn't too bad, unless you actually believe the legal nonsense screenwriters come up with to make Perry Mason look good. As you don't live in a movie, you should be aware that, for example...


YOU DON'T GET TO KILL SOMEONE IF YOU WERE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED FOR THEIR DEATH. No, the double jeopardy clause doesn't apply. You (not) killing someone yesterday and you killing them tomorrow are separate events, and you can totally be tried for both. (Also, the state and federal governments can both

Source: Criminal Law Consulting ​For Writers & Filmmakers


YOU CAN'T BULLY PEOPLE INTO CONFESSING CRIMES IN A COURTROOM. The Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination exists to protect people against this kind of aggressive coercion. Try to lead someone down this path, and you'll get a huge objection.

More: 7 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About The Legal System


DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY ISN'T A LICENSE TO COMMIT CRIMES. The country where you're diplomatic-ing can't detain or prosecute you, but you can be expelled- and your home country can prosecute you (or choose to lift your immunity). And if you're caught committing a serious crime, police are perfectly empowered to arrest

Source: Nolo


YOU WILL NOT BE READ YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS WHENEVER YOU'RE ARRESTED. Police aren't required to read your rights to arrest you, only to interrogate you once you're in their custody. If you are caught red-handed, they don't need to ask if it was you who destroyed that mailbox with a

Source: Oakland Criminal Lawyer


OBJECTIONS AREN'T JUST ABOUT LAWYERS YELLING. An objection is a very technical, structured procedure- one of the parts calmly tells the judge what they're concerned about (mentioning the legal basis for it), the other party gets to answer, and the judge rules on it. Just yelling OBJECTION! won't get you

More: 7 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About The Legal System


YOU AREN'T OFF THE HOOK IF YOU WEREN'T READ YOUR RIGHTS. Police arresting and interrogating you without a Miranda warning doesn't mean you will walk scot free, only that your statement can't be used as evidence in court. You can still be prosecuted, and all other evidence is still admissible.

Source: Jetton & Meredith Law


AN INSANITY DEFENSE IS RARELY USED (LET ALONE SUCCESSFULLY). SL Even though a lot of fictional murderers try to get declared not guilty for reason of insanity, this defense is invoked in less than 1% of all real cases (and only one third of those are about murder). Additionally, only

Source: Morris Psychological Group


PROSECUTORS AREN'T USUALLY UNDERDOGS. Scrappy prosecutors taking on rich sleazes with hotshot lawyers are the exception, not the rule. Up to 90% of defendants can't afford their own lawyers, and must rely on overworked, underfunded public defenders, who don't have the resources of prosecutors.

More: 7 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About The Legal System


JURIES AREN'T JUST FOR CRIMINAL CASES. If you're summoned for jury duty, you might have to sit through a murder case- or it might be someone suing someone else. Most civil cases, however, have fewer jurors than criminal ones, and the verdict doesn't need to be unanimous.

Source: Clark Law Firm


BARELY EVER DO LAWYERS SET FOOT IN A COURTROOM. The huge majority of an attorney's work is done out of court, and even when they are there, they spend more time on formalities than in front of a jury. And this goes for litigation lawyers- transactional lawyers (the kind that

Source: University of Massachusetts


A GUILTY PLEA ISN'T ALWAYS AN ADMISSION OF GUILT (EVEN LEGALLY). It's not uncommon for defendants to plead guilty in order to avoid a harsher sentence- but you can do this without actually admitting to any crime at all. Called an Alford plea, this is obviously contradictory and often frowned

Sources: Georgia Criminal Lawyer, HG.org