| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

For decades, Floridians have been watching legal dramas on television. Whether you grew up watching Perry Mason or more recently have begun watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, television shows that deal with the law are extremely popular. While these shows do not always “get the law right,” so to speak, they have helped to introduced thousands of viewers to some of the complex aspects of criminal law in Florida and throughout the country. What are some of the most popular legal drama programs on television, and what can we learn about the law by watching them?

Popular Legal Dramas Get Ranked By Viewers

What legal dramas are most popular with viewers? According to a list from Ranker.com, the following shows are among the most commonly watched legal television shows:

  • Law & Order;
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit;
  • The Practice;
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation;
  • Boston Legal;
  • Suits;
  • The Good Wife;
  • Perry Mason;
  • L.A. Law;
  • Matlock; and
  • Ally McBeal.

What do these shows have in common? In each of them, viewers watch courtroom scenes unfold—some of the legal matters are issues of civil law in which a plaintiff may be seeking damages from a defendant, such as is common in legal dramas like Suits and The Good Wife. In other legal dramas, such as the Law & Order programs, Perry Mason, Matlock, or the various incarnations of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we primarily view criminal trials that follow either the prosecution and police investigations team, or the defense attorney who is working to building a successful defense for the client and to prove that client’s innocence.

These shows are compelling, and they routinely receive high ratings, keeping legal dramas on a wide variety of networks. What else should viewers know about these television shows and the information they provide?

Learning More About the “CSI Effect” on Juries

According to an article from the American Bar Association (ABA), the term “CSI Effect” was coined to refer to a “phenomenon whereby high-tech, forensic evidence dramatized in television crime dramas such as CSI, Law & Order, and Forensic Files theoretically promotes unrealistic expectation among jurors of how apparently clearly and definitely forensic evidence can determine innocence or guilt or, from the perspective of the civil litigator, causation or liability.”

In other words, viewers watch these popular legal dramas and assume that courtroom proceedings and investigations work the same way in real life and in real legal practice. The “CSI Effect” seems to be so strong in jury trials, in fact, that jurors often will refuse to convict, according to the article, or to find in favor of a plaintiff in a civil trial, simply because it seems as though there is insufficient forensic evidence. The truth is that high-tech and forensic evidence simply is not as prevalent in real court cases as it is on television, and making assumptions about a real case based on knowledge from legal dramas can be problematic.

None of this means, of course, that you should stop watching your favorite legal television dramas. Instead, you might simply shift your expectations in the event that you are involved in a real legal case.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

Do you have questions about how to build a strong defense in your case? An experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can assist you. Contact Moses & Rooth for more information about our services.

Author Photo

Andrew Moses

Andrew has been practicing criminal law his entire career. After graduating from law school he began working as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting cases in Orange and Osceola Counties. During his time as an Assistant State Attorney, Andrew handled all types of cases ranging from misdemeanors to such serious felonies as drug trafficking and armed robbery. His experience as a prosecutor helped him gain perspective of the criminal justice system and how the government established its cases.

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