With TV shows like “Criminal Minds”, “Law & Order”, :CSI”, and “The First 48”, as well as entire channels such as Investigation Discovery devoted to nothing but true crime documentaries, we as a society are becoming more and more knowledgeable as to the inner workings of solving crimes. With this increased exposure and common knowledge has also come an increased interest in pursuing careers within these fields.
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But is TV giving us an accurate view of how crimes are solved? Is it nearly as cut and dried as it’s portrayed on the small, and sometimes big, screen? And, what about the time-frames for test results such as DNA analysis, toxicology tests, and ballistics analysis? Fictional dramas portray everything happening in a neat and timely fashion; from the minute the crime is actually committed, to the perfect timing of the suspect being caught, to the return of the forensic testing results that are needed to put the suspect into prison for life or more. Everything happens within the one-hour time-frame of the show. True crime dramas are more realistic because they are actually real-life, with people who actually exist, and crimes that have actually happened, but most of the time everything still happens within the one-hour time-frame of the show. What isn’t usually discussed are the weeks that it takes to get results back from DNA testing or toxicology reports, or the countless tests that ballistics experts use to determine exactly what gun a fatal bullet came from. The suspect isn’t always immediately apprehended, isn’t always cooperative, and a case can take years to go to trial that may or may not result in a favorable outcome.
It’s important to remember that what is on TV is mainly for entertainment and is not always a completely accurate portrayal of the hard work by countless people that goes into solving crimes, but someone who chooses this line of work as their lifelong career may find it even more interesting than TV or the movies because true life isn’t scripted, and no two cases are alike. Also, because TV and the movies have a time-frame in which the story-line has to play out, many of the behind-the-scenes details that actually go into solving crimes aren’t shown, and those details may actually end up being the most interesting parts of solving a case.