Fact or Fiction: TV Crime Fighting

By: Staff
Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

"CSI," "Law and Order" and other crime and forensic investigation shows present themselves as grounded in reality. But just how real are they? Take our fact or fiction quiz to find out what you really know about the truth underlying these programs.

Fact or fiction: Real crime scene investigators (CSI) prefer to search for evidence at night and in the dark.

Light is essential in proper crime scene investigation. Not only do real CSI personnel bring floodlights for work at night, they typically insist on waiting for daylight before completing their search for evidence.

Fact or fiction: Crime scene investigators are not sworn law enforcement officers.

Most real CSIs are civilians, usually with a specialized scientific education.

Fact or fiction: Upon encountering a murder victim, it's standard procedure for law enforcement to look for some sort of identification.

The first thing a law enforcement officer must do when he or she comes across a dead body is secure the entire area, making sure there are no suspects or other victims nearby. The body is under the jurisdiction of the coroner's department so any other law enforcement officer, including CSIs, would never touch it -- even to look for ID.

Fact or fiction: Most real CSI personnel carry guns, interrogate suspects and wear bulletproof vests.

Because most are not law enforcement officers, real-life CSI personnel don't need guns or bulletproof vests. Instead, they wear standard issue uniforms and a badge similar to, but not exactly like, those worn by police officers.

Fact of fiction: The original "CSI" TV series is set in Las Vegas.

The first episode of "CSI" aired in 2000 and was set in Vegas. Subsequent "CSI" series are set in Miami and New York.

Fact or fiction: Most real life CSI personnel are civilians because of budgetary reasons.

It's far more expensive to hire CSIs as actual police officers, who often earn lifetime benefits, including pensions and healthcare.

Fact or fiction: The "CSI Effect" refers to skills criminals have learned by watching crime shows.

The "CSI Effect" refers to the expectation by juries that all cases will include some type of forensics evidence.

Fact or fiction: It's easy to obtain DNA evidence at a crime scene.

It can be extremely difficult for investigators to find DNA at a crime scene. Often, there is little or no blood, for instance, and it's also hard to lift fingerprints from certain objects, like guns.

Fact or fiction: Real-life CSI teams don't drive Hummers.

Hummers are expensive and most budget-crunched police departments can't afford them, let alone the gas to run them. Instead, CSIs units drive things like vans with the seats taken out or sometimes SUVs.

Fact or fiction: It takes weeks for DNA evidence to be processed.

Unlike on TV where forensics and DNA results come back in minutes or hours, the pace of real life DNA examination takes weeks, or sometimes much longer if a case is not a high priority.

Fact or fiction: Covering a dead body with a sheet or a blanket is always a good thing to do.

Covering a body actually risks contaminating evidence with foreign DNA, making it harder to get evidence that will hold up in court.

Fact or fiction: In real life, family members are allowed to enter a crime scene to see a murdered relative.

Crime scenes are tightly controlled because of fears that evidence will be removed, tampered with or contaminated.

Fact or fiction: The CSI franchise was created by Jerry Bruckheimer.

Anthony Zuiker is the creator and executive producer of CSI.

Fact or fiction: It's against the law for real world police officers to touch a dead body they encounter.

Dead bodies are under the jurisdiction of the coroner's department.

Fact or fiction: It's impossible to obtain DNA evidence from a car that has been burned or cleaned with bleach.

Both bleach and fire will pretty much erase all remnants of DNA.

Fact or fiction: Real CSI lab workers are generalists, and have a wide range of knowledge about several scientific topics.

CSI crime lab jobs require specialized education and training, which is different depending on whether someone does toxicology, ballistics or DNA work. Most lab scientists specialize in one of these fields, perhaps two, but it's unlikely you'll find one that's a generalists.

Fact of fiction: It's the job of real CSI personnel to figure out who committed a crime.

Only on TV. Real CSI technicians assist investigators and detectives solve the crimes, but only in a support function.

Fact or fiction: Both Justin Bieber and Roger Daltrey have appeared on episodes of CSI.

Roger Daltrey, the lead singer of The Who, appeared in a 2006 episode, and the ubiquitous teen sensation Justin Bieber has been in numerous episodes.

Fact or fiction: A sample of DNA is not sufficient to obtain a suspect's photograph and criminal record.

Most police databases with information about a person's criminal history and mug shot are not linked to those with DNA information.

Fact or fiction: Real life crime scene searches are conducted using distinct, regimented patterns.

Crime scene search methods are methodical and include line searches where people stand shoulder to shoulder -- a technique used in order to find a small item in a large field -- or grid searches, where an area is divided into sections.

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