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The "CSI Effect"

Watch enough trials or serve on enough juries and chances are you will hear attorneys talk about or lament over the “CSI Effect.” This is especially likely to occur in a criminal trial in which the prosecution is leaning heavily on the results of one or more forensic examinations in order to convict the defendant. The CSI Effect can be exploited by a resourceful criminal defense attorney and can make the prosecution’s job of obtaining a conviction more difficult.

What is the CSI Effect?

In modern times there have been a number of criminal investigation shows such as CSI and its many spinoffs. These television programs portray criminal investigative activities in a dramatic and exciting light. Of particular relevance is the manner in which these programs depict forensic tests like ballistic tests, DNA tests, and fingerprint tests. The viewer of these shows is left with three interrelated impressions about forensic tests in criminal cases:

  • First, the viewer is led to believe that forensic tests are always conducted in every criminal case. When he or she is called as a juror, then, the prosecution must often take additional time to explain why certain tests were not conducted in the case. The defense can exploit an absence of forensic testing by cross-examining law enforcement officers about why they chose not to conduct certain tests if such tests would have been available and reasonable under the circumstances.
  • Second, the viewer is left with the impression that many forensic tests can be performed quickly and accurately after the submission of an item to the laboratory for analysis. When the viewer is called as a juror in a criminal case, he or she cannot fathom why it might take a laboratory weeks or months to analyze a sample. Nor can the viewer-turned-juror understand why a test may be inconclusive or yield nothing of forensic value.
  • Lastly, the viewer is left with a sense of urgency concerning the full forensic testing process. The evidence collected must be analyzed quickly before it loses its value and integrity. In the case where a sample is collected from a Florida crime scene for forensic testing but not analyzed until weeks or months later, the viewer-juror may conclude that the accuracy of the testing is affected.

How Your Criminal Defense Attorney Can Use the CSI Effect to Your Advantage

Forensic testing is a subject matter that is beyond the understanding and comprehension of most jurors. In other words, most jurors do not understand how a fingerprint is processed and compared to others, how drugs are analyzed, or how DNA is identified. When jurors are unable to understand or comprehend something, reasonable doubt can be created. A clever and resourceful defense attorney can use the CSI Effect to cast reasonable doubt on the results of forensic tests, which in turn can lead to reasonable doubt as to your guilt.

If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, contact the experienced and talented Miami criminal defense law firm of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today at (305) 670-9919 or online through the firm’s website to schedule a free initial consultation.

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