Criminal Law

Criminal Law

Different studies indicate that most of the people in the United States get as much of the knowledge and impressions of the criminal justice system via the media, particularly through watching entertainment television. Following this, the examination of most people in the sociology of law, as well as studies on related criminal justice, appear to be concerned though in degrees that vary, with the criminal justice system autonomy, or its aspects, as socially determinant and how it operates.

In the course of study, we mostly looked at the features characterizing law enforcement as well as the legal system in general. However, my area of concern is the criminal justice perception and the law enforcement taking into consideration the manner in which it penetrates social thinking and social life. This does not necessarily mean the manner which criminal justice work but rather a manner in which people tend to think it operates, whether the thinking is right or wrong.

Considering the fact that the criminal justice system takes charge while at the same time is embedded in and remains is greatly defined in and by relations to the society in general, a significant matter that comes up and needs to be looked at is the actual public knowledge of the criminal justice system operation. Public perception and knowledge, as well as the social forces that shape and cause them, have to be understood if we want to have a clear understanding of the relationship between society and law.

Before drawing a meaning perception of the criminal justice together with the law enforcement in the society, it is important to probe the public knowledge nature and the social control process perception, particularly the legal system. This implies the concern as what is the criminal justice system image before the eyes of the public. The manner in which the system is being perceived by the different society segments as well as the society in general. The amount of concrete knowledge the public has the criminal justice system in the context of the level at which the public understands how the criminal system works.

Regardless of the contrary impression, the better part of the population actually gets few chances to interact directly with the criminal justice system. Considering it central and determinant role, the public has somehow been socialized to the system in one way or the other. While certainly they exist other information sources, studies have shown that most of the people in the United States get most of their knowledge and impressions of the criminal justice system via the media, and especially through entertainment television watching (Surrete 1992).

Indeed, in a different way, the contact that is most direct with most people have with the system is through the experiences with their televisions. This issue is very much in keeping up with increasingly postmodern life depictions in which the authority of the school and family has waned greatly, and television has been observed to be progressively the principle means or to some extent the replacement for socialization and social contact.

Also, studies on the how television serves as a socialization agent and source of information and knowledge have been very suggestive along the same lines for both adults and children (Drunker 2000). It is evident that the average United States household has its television on for at least eight hours every day, with an individual watching it in general for about four hours every day. Also, television reaches about ninety-nine percent of the population in that virtually the entire population in the country has access to television.

After school and family, television has been identified as an agent that is able to reach virtually all population segments almost from birth and despite the fact that most people watch television ostensibly for entertainment, there is an increasing evidence that such an activity, of and in itself, has considerable behavioral, social, and psychological effects, that are far much beyond pure entertainment and leisure (Oskamp 2004) and that television is an important social information source.

The above realization calls for the need to have serious consideration when it comes to the social learning impact of television, in relation to information transmission, in the investigation of the knowledge of the public with regards to the criminal justice system as well as the relationship between society and law in general.

On the basis of the research on the sociology of media studies and culture and mass communication, it is easy to conceptualize programs on television in the whole as a social force and cultural product, impacting the society and being involved in the social development process or socialization. What people see in these television programs is both historically and socially delineated and situated, as also time capable of impacting socialization and some level, social reproduction, construction, and change.

The main concern at this point is how then is crime and law enforcement or the legal system, portrayed on television. Television images and programs as a cultural product are normally conceived as a society reflection. This theory of reflection at its most essentialist expression has it that cultural products tend to mirror society aspects and the social order that results in them (Surrete 1992). While there exist several reflection theory variants, this happens to be the basic notion on how they all rest and this culture mirrors social reality.

Hence, the cultural object or product reflects the social patterns and structure of the wider society. Television programs offer an entire information array that is contextualized by the several related television production aspects. These aspects together form a cultural criminal justice representation and offer the public with guidelines and information about it, whether true or false.

It has been noted is that these television programs are created by members of the society, and it is misleading to look at them in isolation from the rest of the society. Especially, about the legal system presentation, television programs happen to be complex products which incorporate societal atmosphere and attitudes, and they make use of shared conventions and symbols in the images production.

These conventions and symbols incorporate the notion that any society member who is well socialized can understand and recognize. Hence, through reflecting on some of the criminal justice system images in ways that are, by design or plan, understandable by the public in general, programs on television also convey messages and information that the public in general can utilize in understating this significant society component.

In general, programs on crime and law enforcement have been so popular with ratings that are consistently high over time. At least quarter of the prime shows that were being aired between 1960 and 1990 are on themes of criminal justice or crime, which make up the largest individual subject on television currently, across all programming types (Surrete 1992).

Obviously, the reality television nature is an important investigation issue. Numerous complex and diverse factors impact the program type as well as their contents that are aired during prime time such as societal values, norms, and laws; agencies like the Congress, Federal Communication Commission, and advocacy groups; the interests and organization of the broadcasting industry, and the viewer values and attitudes (Oskamp 2004).

Messages transmitted by programs on crime and law enforcement have to be explored to find out the number of matters such as whether they are accurate or plentiful information sources on legal rights, process, and procedures; whether the legal system legitimacy is affirmed; whether tights have been supported or they have been portrayed as obstacles to effective enforcement of the law; whether the police and the courts are portrayed as honest, effective, or repressive; or whether the  legal system is portrayed as biased, corrupt, or worthy support (). Some of the areas that can be used to offer guidance on public perception and television imagery of the criminal justice system include;

Information On The Legal System

Some of the studies have found programs on television to be poor accurate knowledge sources with regards to even the legal system formal operations, following the distortion and omission of the information as well as the higher dramatic necessity priority. A good example in the case where most of the police crime show portray the process of criminal investigation as to end with arrest, apprehension, or death of the suspect. The stories in most cases include illegal, and legal seizures and searches, and suspects who are arrested are in most cases read their rights to.

Post arrest procedures such as jury selection, pretrial hearing, arraignments, plea bargaining, bonding, trials and sentencing are rarely shown (Oskamp 2004). Even in series on court drama, such procedures are rarely shown; neither are the instances where cases are solved before any trial. Also, criminal trials in reality rarely end in courtroom confessions as they often do for television dramatic effect.

There has been a heated debate with some people insisting that television message and information are not supposed to facilitate accurate learning with regards to the criminal justice system, but rather meant to make less clear and understandable in supporting social control. Law and crime enforcement programs present television characters, not laws and rules, as offering solutions to conflicts such as television programs personifying the law through portraying the law in this manner, television programs make the legal system and the very lawless foundation understandable. This notion corresponds to the allegation that television programs are in support of the wider system and relates to arguments that the functions of the legal system better with a citizenry that is relatively ignorant.

In general, television programs on the enforcement of law and crime are typically characterized by distortions and omissions on information with regards to the legal system. Taking into consideration all categories that include criminals, crimes, the crime investigation, crime fighters, case processing, arrests, and case dispositions, the world has been observed to present a world of justice and crime that is not realistic.

Criminal Justice System Compliance

The most dominating prime time crime programs message is that crime does not benefit anyone and that criminals are unworthy characters and highly undesirable. Most shows on television programs show a lawful life as being clearly superior to one that is unlawful and almost all the criminals in television are thwarted or caught (Oskamp 2004).

Such kind of message can powerfully contribute to the social control in general and compliance. There are three crime and law enforcement programs characteristics that contribute to the compliance message as the behavior that is most appropriate. They include; the sharp distinction that is often drawn between the law enforcers and the criminal laws, and the often violent criminal activity consequences, and the television law enforcement effectiveness.

Criminals presented in television shows are in most cases are given a wide range of negative character traits to add on their criminality, and the motives of such characters are typically base or greed or cruelty, or wickedness. Law enforcers, on the other hand, are brought out as being relatively moral.

Although in some cases they may be in conflict with the bureaucracy and are independent, they tend to take clearly the side of the conventional and law morality. The depictions of characters are highly important, particularly about the broader social relations and attitudes. The character attributes express messages on different kinds of people and the population segments.

About social learning, such messages assist in defining the usefulness, function, abilities and features of different groups of people. Such characters do not have to be obvious. The viewers are not normally aware of each relative role shading now that each is rationalized by the specific plot. They are even less familiar with the relations that are common to the many characterizations that they do not perceive as being part of the a wider pattern

Violent criminal activities resolutions seem to be over-presented in the television crime programs.

A violent end of a program makes it clear which character emerges and the winner and the loser, who is inferior and who is superior. At the same time, while the high court and police effectiveness levels in television programs can be unrealistic, the way they are portrayed arguably encourages the particular perception of the legal system in operation. In most of the programs, police tend to have their way always; as crimes rarely go unsolved with the murders always caught, and the juries and courts never let the criminal go free.

It is clear that compliance is central to the portrayals on television of crime and law enforcement. However, it is arguable that while programs on television support legal compliance ostensibly, the message on the ground is that people and not the law itself, ensure compliance (Oskamp 2004). Emphasis on personalities who resolve disputes and how the law, obscure the rationalization and very basis of the legal system. Apparently, television presents a reality distortion of both the nature and compliance of the criminal justice system.

Due Rights and Process

Television emphasizes conduct criminal repression as the most significant legal system function that supports the social order. In a typical scenario for example, in the police shows, the viewers are shown the crime that is committed and they know the criminal identity. Hence, when the police carry out an illegal search, it appears more acceptable or less questionable as compared to the case when it might be otherwise, now that guilt, in this case, has been established in the viewer’s eyes.

In the context, the viewer is likely to feel that the lawyer or judge on the television program does too much in protecting the rights of a suspect, with innocent people left suffering a result. (Oskamp 2004)Most television programs bright out illegal searches as being essential, showing a vital evidence; in the event that police brutalizes a witness, it is in an effort to get a crucial lead for capturing vicious criminals.

There is a disparity between the criminal justice system reality being televised and the actual reality ways that the public gets a crime image and justice the supports typically a crime control policy mechanism before due process protections. Television portrayals of constitutional rights violations are not identified typically as such, and more so, are brought out as necessary for effective system maintenance and crime control. This way, whether looked at as psychological manipulation, the perceptions of the public as well as their knowledge of the actual criminal justice system can be greatly affected.


Police Portrayals

It is obvious the image of the police that television presents to the viewers can be expressed along several dimensions. Most law enforcers on television programs are connected directly with the courts, police, or government agency, and they are most often male, white, and middle-aged, although it can be that with time the category of age seems to be a bit more flexible, in some cases shifting between middle-aged and young white males.

Also, it is not surprising that considering the dramatic requirements, unrealistic shows on television bring out police work as being mainly investigative, in most cases ignoring the routine work of the police; it come out as glamorous, with a great independence deal an easy access to marvelous resources, with success rates that are extremely high. Also, in general, television programs portray of the policemen and the police forces, in general, are positive in general, showing them as being law-abiding and honest.


Murder has been identified as being the most common type of crime on television programs. The other forms of crime that are also common on television programs include kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault (Drunker 2000). Most of the crimes in these television shows are nasty attacks by criminals who are frightening calculating mostly targeting innocent victims.

Violence appears to be permeating will all activities involving human beings as well as acts of kidnapping, rape, murder, and particularly terrorism which has been on the increase in the recent past. Some studies have shown that females from different ages, now whites, young boys, upper or lower class persons in most cases fall victims of crime and violence with female victimization being on the increase (Drunker 2000)

In any case in general, television programs reality posits a great chance of being involved in crime and violent activities can take place almost everywhere. On the other hand, in the television shows, the chances of being a violent victim are higher when one is elderly or younger, lower class, white, and female.

However, the probability of victimization in the programs is relatively high in all population groups. This portrayal type is likely to have a great influence on the viewing perception of the public of reality in relationship to the criminal justice system. Especially, it appears to highly support the conventional morality and proper behavior views and the status quo, and this necessitates extreme crime control levels and latitude for the enforcers of the law, and the legal system maintenance. This also brings out the point that television programming taken as a cultural object, it is reflective as well as instrumental when it comes to supporting beliefs and ideologies or mainstream or society dominance.

The current situation of the nation is that of a social structure that is going through relatively rapid changes when it comes to several areas in which the criminal justice knowledge is a significant issue. Different studies have shown that there exists a strong relationship between the viewing of television shows and the television-based perceptions cultivation of reality (Drunker 2000).

There is also a large body of significant and interesting research that address the violence issue on televises and its impacts on the public who view the television shows. Most of the focuses in this area have been of the concern as to whether portrayals of violence and crime impact the viewers in relation to engendering and not just a mere reflection, similar behaviors and attitudes.

A different approach in this case is using the shows on television in determining the images that the public has on the criminal and justice system itself as well as go ahead to find out how these images might impact the public perceptions, learning, and basic knowledge of the legal system as well as its operations with reality so as to contribute the students understanding of the society and law relationship.

This does not imply that a perfect television portrayals mapping onto the perceptions of the public, or that the two are coupled perfectly, and this depends on what such portrayals are in relation to other information sources. However, it is expected to come across a relative growing and matching amount of public knowledge influence.

The ever increasing television viewing levels by the postmodern individual are likely to result in a more public perception that is television-defined of criminal justice and laws enforcement. While the accuracy of the perceptions of the public in an issue on its own, it is also a particularly important one now that taking into consideration the increasing social scientists number insist that the legal system is likely to work best when the public are not well informed with regards to it operation.

To add on being separately suggestive and interesting, the research strategies and substantive areas that have been proposed, particularly in relation to their interactive examination, is likely to result in a somewhat compelling and different investigation of the relationship between society and law, with important empirical and theoretical implications for the related political, cultural, and criminal research in general



Drucker, S. (2000). “The televised mediated trial: Formal and substantive characteristics.” Communication Quarterly, 37(4): 305-318

Oskamp, S. (2004). Applied social psychology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall

Surette, R. (1992). Media, crime, and criminal justice: Images and realities. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole

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