Crime Scene Investigation Effect in Justice System


Movies have been known to influence popular culture in different parts of the world. Analysts believe that the “CSI effect” is one of the fruits of popular culture. The argument presented in this paper is that the effect has significantly influenced jurors in such a way that they ask for unnecessary laboratory results, expert testimonies, and tests. The paper goes further to explain why adequate measures will be needed to eliminate or minimize this effect.

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Introduction: “CSI Effect”

The term “Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) effect” is a new phenomenon whereby prosecutors and jurors have been influenced by television shows and films focusing on scientific crime investigation (Paullet, Davis, McMillion, & Yerby, 2013). The proliferation of films focusing on legal matters, a criminal investigation, and forensic science is something that has reshaped the ideas and thoughts held by many players in the criminal justice system. The “CSI effect” has become a reality today because judges are reluctant to convict offenders when forensic evidence is missing.

The “CSI Effect” and Impact on the Criminal Justice System

Defining the “CSI Effect”

Within the past two decades, films and televisions have transformed how people think about crime investigation and justice. This is the case because many scientific investigations portrayed in movies showcase advanced systems and technologies that can make it easier for criminal justice professionals to get the right offenders (Call, Cook, Reitzel, & McDougle, 2013). This kind of portrayal has led to a new situation whereby many players in the criminal justice system come up with decisions based on what they see in movies (Call et al., 2013). This notion has transformed several aspects and practices in the criminal justice system.

Paullet et al. (2013) indicate that the effect arises from the belief or understanding that television or movie-based crime shows influence the decisions made by judges and jurors in the courtroom. This means that many prosecutors and jurors have been out of touch with reality especially when making specific decisions in a court of law (Alldredge, 2015). This has been the case because many jurors ask for conclusive information and evidence that might be unavailable. This effect might have serious consequences on the criminal justice system unless something is done.

Impact on the Criminal Justice System

The “CSI effect” is something that has attracted diverse views from different analysts and thinkers. Past studies have indicated that major players and jurors in the criminal justice system are influenced by whatever they see in movies (Crime Museum, 2017). For instance, it has been observed that heavy watching of different movies and television programs focusing on crime scenes alters how a viewer interprets social reality. Consequently, the gained information encourages the individual to think that criminal justice can be improved using scientific knowledge (Rhineberger-Dunn, Briggs, & Rader, 2016). Consequently, judges and jurors who watch such movies will alter their understandings of crime.

A study conducted by Cole (2013) indicated that jurors who watched such movies had increased chances of refuting circumstantial evidence. Instead, such individuals chose to ask for credible evidence based on forensic investigation. This is a clear indication that such jurors and professionals make their final decisions based on the availability of forensic evidence.

Within the criminal justice system, different actors have been influenced by the effect because it appears to have both a pro-prosecution and a pro-defense influence (Cole, 2013). This effect explains why many jurors have been asking from lab tests before making their final decisions. This development has led to congestion in forensic labs across the country (Alldredge, 2015). The request for unnecessary and unneeded evidence is on the rise. Consequently, most of the jurors end up making inappropriate decisions whenever the requested forensic evidence is unavailable.

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The “CSI effect” has therefore continued to make it hard for different stakeholders in the criminal justice system to convict offenders or realize their goals. This is the case because juries expect forensic and high-level scientific investigations to be done in almost every case. Unfortunately, the required evidence might be unrealistic or even unattainable (Cole, 2013). When the evidence cannot be presented promptly, the jurors end up making wrong decisions. Alldredge (2015) goes further to indicate that death investigators and lawyers have been forced to act by the “CSI effect”. For instance, many jurors and judges who watch CSI movies will be less likely to sentence a person if DNA evidence is unavailable for cases such as armed robbery and rape (Rhineberger-Dunn et al., 2016).


This discussion shows conclusively that modern films and television programs have far-reaching impacts on several functions such as the criminal justice system. The “CSI effect” is a classical example of how movies influence how legal experts, crime investigators, jurors, and judges make their decisions. This issue has led to numerous challenges such as unfair acquittal or inadequate sentencing procedures (Crime Museum, 2017). That being the case, players in the criminal justice system should be on the frontline to implement powerful measures that can set a line between reality and imagination gained from movies. This move will minimize the impacts of the “CSI Effect” and transform the criminal justice system’s image.


Alldredge, J. (2015). The “CSI effect” and its potential impact on juror decisions. Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, 3(1), 113-126. Web.

Call, C., Cook, A., Reitzel, J., & McDougle, R. (2013). Seeing is believing: The CSI effect among jurors in malicious wounding cases. Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, 7(1), 52-66. Web.

Cole, S. (2013). A surfeit of science: The “CSI effect” and the media appropriation of the public understanding of science. Public Understanding of Science, 24(2), 1-9. Web.

Crime Museum. (2017). The “CSI effect”. Web.

Paullet, K., Davis, G., McMillion, S., & Yerby, J. (2013). The new tech effect: A comparative analysis of two universities. Issues in Information Systems, 14(2), 12-22. Web.

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Rhineberger-Dunn, G., Briggs, S., & Rader, N. (2016). The CSI effect, DNA discourse, and popular crime drams. Social Science Quarterly, 1(2), 1-14. Web.

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