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What Did Criminal Minds Get Right?

As someone who is pursuing a career in Criminal Justice, my bubble was popped almost immediately of the reality of how things truly occur in this field.

Long story short, to answer the question that has peaked your interest, Criminal Minds does a phenomenal job of getting absolutely nothing correct.

I know.. I know.. you may be feeling as though the rug has been pulled out right from under you and I know it must hurt feeling betrayed this way, but bear with me as I open your eyes to the beautiful world of Criminal Justice.

1. Advanced Technology

Screenshot taken by Author from the show Criminal Minds on Netflix

As convenient as it would be to have a Penelope Garcia in the field, unfortunately it takes longer than a couple of minutes or hours to receive information about evidence retrieved from the crime scene.

The high tech on the show does not exist and it takes much longer to receive results when concerning trace evidence, associate evidence, prima facie evidence, etc., on a scene.

It takes anywhere from 8 months to a year to receive results on evidence, which most times is pushing it.

The high tech that is able to immediately match fingerprints or handwriting to a person is inaccurate as well.

A person’s fingerprints will only be matched if they have already committed a crime and been put into the AFIS which stands for Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems.

Both matching fingerprints and handwriting to a person is done manually and several characteristics must align before being certain it is a match.

2. Entering A Crime Scene

Unlike the easy process of breaking through the crime scene tape and entering the scene without permission from your agency, when entering a crime scene there is always someone who has a crime scene log in which you have to sign in and out of each time you go into the crime scene.

If you fail to do so, you put yourself at the risk of being accused of lying, tampering with evidence, and losing your job.

3. Obtaining Evidence

When obtaining evidence this is the most tedious and crucial part of a crime scene, if any evidence is tampered with, mishandled, or not secured properly it puts the entire case at risk.

Each piece of evidence must be sketched, photographed, and notes must be written down with as much detail as possible such as, where the evidence is positioned, what it looks like, the size of the evidence, and etc.

It is very difficult to be a crime scene investigator and preserve as much evidence as possible, because several people are on the scene before they arrive such as family, first responders, officers, and detectives which could lead to several pieces of evidence being moved or destructed.

4. Entering Property

Several characters in the show enter properties without utilizing the proper protocol, it is illegal to enter one’s property without probable cause and a warrant which is supported by the 4th Amendment.

If any evidence is obtained through this illegal search it is inadmissible in court.

So basically, most of the evidence that was acquired in the show should not have held weight in court and they all should’ve been fired several seasons ago.

5. Blood Splatter

This has to be one of the most annoying things done on the show, if you ever refer to this image as blood splatter, please know this term doesn’t exist and will drive any person in forensics insane. The proper term is blood spatter! Just use this quote to help remind yourself that, “blood spats not splats!”.

Now that you no longer suffer from what we refer to as the CSI effect: the phenomenon in which jurors hold unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence and investigation techniques, I hope you feel more enlightened and even more intrigued by the processes and procedures in the Criminal Justice field.

What Did Criminal Minds Get Right? was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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