Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System

It seems America has an obsession with crime and criminals. With hundreds of movies, television shows and books designed around this industry, it’s no surprise that millions are interested in pursuing a career within the criminal justice system. If you’re considering a move into this challenging and reward industry, there are several myths you must understand are nothing more than media hype and misunderstandings. In order to gain a better understanding of this dynamic industry, take a moment to review the top common criminal justice system myths propagated across the internet.

Myth #1 – Investigations Are Dangerous and Result in Shootouts and Car Chases

While this is definitely a possibility for some professionals involved within the criminal justice system, it is far from commonplace. To help clarify this myth, let’s take a look at the latest statistics involving gun-related deaths caused during an investigation. Out of the 92 police officers that died while in the line of duty in 2013, only 47 of these were killed intentionally – or during a shootout. Have images of police chases causing car accidents and violence throughout neighborhood streets? Unfortunately, this is far from the case. 96 percent of police departments carefully pursue suspects while 40 percent of law enforcement agencies end high-speed chases the moment a suspect has been identified. This means, once the driver and occupants are identified, the chase ends and other methods of capture are used.

Myth #2 – Fingerprint Identification is the Best Way to Catch a Criminal

While TV shows convey fingerprinting as the “go to” for solving crimes, this is far from the truth. In fact, only one in four criminal lab investigations include workable fingerprints. Moreover, just to give an idea of how this little piece of evidence is relied upon, there are nearly 2,000 mistaken fingerprint matches in the United States per year. Therefore, criminal investigators must rely on far more than a fingerprint left on a coffee mug to solve a crime.

Myth #3 – Our Streets Are Filled With Serial Killers

While the notion of serial killers lurking among civilians on the subway make for an excellent crime novel, the truth is far less intriguing. In fact, less than one percent of all murders in the United States are done by a “serial killer.” Moreover, over 81 percent of all murder cases in the United States involve only one victim and one murderer.

Myth #4 – Gathering Evidence Only Takes a Few Minutes… Like in the TV Shows

While physical evidence is the cornerstone for the majority of crimes, tangible physical evidence is quite difficult to locate and process. Unlike what is shown on television shows and in movies, processing biological evidence doesn’t take hours, or even days. To gather tangible biological evidence, the process can take months. In fact, only two thirds of all biological evidence gathered from crime scenes is utilized and examined. Moreover, less than one percent of all crimes are solved through the assistance of DNA.

For more, see the Top Ten Law Related Movies Every US Law Student Should See.