10 Forensic Techniques Done Badly on TV


Everything Happens Fast

Nothing about the CSI shows is particularly methodical: The scenes are quick and interspersed with eye-catching shots of the Vegas Strip or South Beach in Miami. The pace at which the evidence from crime scenes -- be it DNA samples or fingerprints -- analyzed on the shows is equally rapid. Indeed, in the "About Face" episode of "CSI: Miami," one of the lab workers reports that a DNA sample submitted that morning had already been definitively identified [source: cbs.com]. In the real world, nothing happens so quickly. Joe Dane, an attorney who worked as a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County and still teaches courses at a police academy, including one about homicide investigation, says that DNA takes weeks to process. "If they have an ample quantity, like a large pool of blood, then it's weeks," he says, although it can take longer if there's just trace evidence.

The time investigators spend at a crime scene collecting and cataloguing evidence is also fast forwarded in the world of TV. "Having been a cop and a prosecutor called out to a murder scene to watch the investigation unfold, it takes hours and hours to process the scene and do it correctly. It's slow and methodical," he says.

Keep reading to see why forensic investigators on TV are really, really lucky.