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On-screen court

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6 Ways That On-Screen Court and Real-life Court Are Very Different

Hammer and Books

There is no shortage of truly entertaining legal shows on TV. Filled with drama, danger, and mystery, shows like Judge Judy, People’s Court, Divorce Court, and Judge Joe Brown are popular daytime television programs.

But how accurate are they? Are they true to the happenings of legal cases in a real court room? Let’s find out! Here are 6 ways that on-screen court and real-life court differ.

  1. Confessions

When it comes to confessions, TV programs generally have the guilty admitting to their charge in open court. In real life, self-incriminating evidence is often not admissible in the courtroom.

Sometimes, this evidence is allowed after the proceeding of certain procedures. But even these procedures are not allowed to take place in the same court session.

  1. Instantaneous justice

In true TV fashion and for dramatic effect, judges usually deliver their verdict within a few minutes and alongside a grand speech. Real life justice, however, can be a long process.

Most of the time, both sides are heard and then the case enters a waiting period, where all parties involved await the judge’s verdict. This verdict may be given within a week, a month, or a year (or longer). The process is extensive and drawn out.

  1. Gavels

Every good TV court proceeding features at least one hit of the judge’s gavel. Whether it be to stop a heated argument or to officially end the session, you can rest assured that the gavel will drop.

In actuality, though, judges rarely ever use the gavel. Yes, they have it and yes they can use it- but more often than not, they don’t.

  1. Last minute evidence.

Many on-screen court cases include a healthy dose of last minute, fate-sealing evidence. You know the type- the document that the lawyer whips out of his pocket, the perfectly preserved fingerprint, etc etc.

Although this makes for a great show, it isn’t realistic. Most of the time evidence in real court proceedings is document beforehand and there are very few evident surprises, making this popular depiction nothing more than added drama for entertainment purposes.

  1. Napping

An episode of Judge Judy would be nothing more than a joke if one of the many people attending took an impromptu nap while the jury deliberated. Despite this, napping does happen in the real world.

This is mostly because of the length of any given court session; some sessions last upwards of 7 straight hours! They are also generally quite dry and filled with a lot more sleep-inducing silence than they are intense arguments.

  1. Attendance

In every episode of Law & Order, the courtroom is packed. In real court, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Most of the time, court rooms are relatively empty save for those who need to be there to testify, the judge, and the support people of both parties. Sometimes, there will be a handful of people, but generally the attendance rates are low.