Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999– )
FAQAdd to FAQ (Coming Soon)
Michelle Hurd (Detective Monique Jeffries), left the show at the beginning of season two to join the cast of another tv series called "Leap Years". This was because the character of Jeffries was only a minor character at first with only one scene in the pilot episode. Dick Wolf himself promised Hurd her the character would eventually develop. However, Hurd felt the Jeffries character never received the development that was promised by Wolf and left. In the series Jeffries was forced to take a different position because of her deteriorating mental state. During a psych interview which she assumed was confidential, she admitted to having sex with a suspect outside of work, compromising her reliability and reputation in SVU. Stabler was also a concern, but after a few counseling sessions, he was left alone to continue his work.
Richard Belzer (Detective John Munch) left the series as he wanted to pursue other work, and it had also been decided that he was too old for his character to be realistically working in law enforcement anymore. In the show Munch eventually retired but does makes occasional reappearances in the show as guest star.
Christopher Meloni (Detective Eliot Stabler) left after Season 12 because he could not agree on a new contract with the producers and thus left the series. Within the show this was explained as Stabler resigning from the NYPD off-screen because of the trauma of having to kill a young girl during a shootout at the SVU squad-room.
Adam Beach (Detective Chester Lake) he had proved unpopular with fans and the producers decided to remove his character as there seemed to be too many on the show. In the seires Chester Lake was last seen being arrested for the shooting a police officer who had been acquitted of raping and murdering a girl. Whether he was convicted of murder/manslaughter or acquitted on grounds of self-defence is left unclear. Edit (Coming Soon)
17 although the greater the age gap between victim and suspect the more seriously it is regarded and punished (the 'Romeo and Juliet' law, limiting it to 4 years age difference). It is also legal to have sex with a person who is underage in New York if both are legally married in another recognised jurisdiction. 18 is the federal limit for appearing in pornography. Although the term paedophile has become a catch all for child sex abusers it actually runs (1) Niedophile-infant to 5 years old. (2) Paedophile-5 to 12 years old. (3) Hebophile-13 to 15 years old. (4) Ephebophile-16 to 18 years old. Edit (Coming Soon)
The following are under the SVU's remit:
* Any child under 11 years of age who is the victim of abuse by a parent or person legally responsible for the care of the child.
* Any child under 13 years of age who is the victim of any sex crime or attempted sex crime.
* Any victim of rape (all degrees) or attempted rape (all degrees).
* Any victim of a criminal sexual act (all degrees) or attempted criminal sexual act (all degrees).
* Victims of aggravated sexual abuse (all degrees).
* Victims of sexual abuse 1st degree.
They also deal with children, handicapped and elderly victims of non-sexual crimes who require specialist handling.
The Special Victims Unit does not investigate any murder, robbery, or child pornography cases. Murders and robberies are investigated by precinct detective squads. If a sex crime is involved, the Special Victims Unit may assist in the investigation. Child pornography is investigated by the NYPD Vice Enforcement Sexual Exploitation of Children Unit. Edit (Coming Soon)
1PP - 1 Police Plaza, NYPD headquarters.
Brady Violation - The prosecution lawyers and police must turn all evidence they are aware of over to the defence for them to be able to counter, even if it hurts their case, what is known as 'Discovery'.
Bus - Paramedic Ambulance.
C.I - Confidential Informant.
C.O.D. - Cause of Death.
C.S.U. - Crime Scene Unit, Forensic Technician Personel. The unit is responsible for forensic investigations of homicides and sexual assaults, as well as other crimes as deemed necessary. Members of the Crime Scene Unit assist the precinct detectives in the processing of a crime scene as well as determining the proper routing of evidence. The Crime Scene Unit has many tools at its disposal to process a crime scene including the materials needed to develop fingerprints, cast footwear and tire impressions, follow the trajectory of bullets fired through windows and the chemicals necessary to observe blood under special lighting conditions that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. The unit is also trained to process a crime scene in a hazardous environment, for example following a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.
E.S.U. - Emergency Services Unit, is a police tactical unit which provides specialized equipment, expertise and support to the various units within the police departments. These police forces do not have a traditional S.W.A.T. unit. The Emergency Service Unit qualifies in the role of a S.W.A.T. unit and much more. From auto accidents to building collapses to hostage situations, "ESU" officers are called on when the situation requires advanced equipment and expertise.
Fishing expedition - when the police conduct a search they must have a definitive object in mind rather than just searching in the hope of turning up some random evidence.
'Fruit of the poisoned tree' - evidence that has been obtained improperly which may therefore be excluded from court. For instance a police officer searches a suspect and finds a weapon which is then linked to a murder. However the search is then ruled to be illegal due to insufficient grounds so the defence can argue that the evidence of the weapon should not be allowed to be introduced as part of the murder case.
Habeas Corpus - Latin for 'produce the body', that the accused should be able to confront their accuser in court, a legal principle dating back all the way to Magna Carta.
Hearsay - Second hand witness testimony, a person repeating what they heard another say. Normally this is inadmissible as evidence in the courtroom but sex crimes are the exception and it can be introduced at the discretion of the judge.
He said, she said - A rape where both parties agree to sex having occurred between them but one claims it was consensual and the other claims it was rape, considered to be the hardest of all sex crimes to prosecute.
Lawyered up - A suspect who invokes their right to not say anything and await their lawyer which the justice system will provide them.
LUDs - Local usage details, a list of a person's incoming and outgoing phone calls over a specified period of time. While LUDs are easy to obtain for police, they're not readily available at a cop's whim. Phone records are treated as private information, so investigators must prove to a judge that the search is warranted, in which case, the judge will grant a court order for the phone company to provide a suspect's LUDs.
Man One/Two/Three - Manslaughter in the 1st/2nd/3rd Degree.
M.E. - Medical Examiner, a physician, and a specialist in pathology or forensic science. Duties always include determining the cause, time, and manner of death. This uses the same investigatory skills of a police detective in most cases, because the answers are available from the circumstances, scene, and recent medical records. In many American jurisdictions any death not certified by the person's own physician must be referred to the M.E.
Miranda - the formal warning police are required to give suspects on arrest advising them of their right to remain silent, have legal council etc.
Molineux hearing - a judge's hearing in which they decide if previous unproven allegations against the accused can be entered into their current trial. This has become hugely contentious and is derisively known as the 'smoke without fire' method by defence lawyers, the prosecutors grouping together a series of unproven accusations, none of which could lead to conviction by itself but establishing a 'pattern of behaviour' by the accused in the hope of persuading a jury. Defence lawyers and campaigners for the falsely accused complain this runs the risk of false accusers 'jumping on the band wagon', especially if the accused is rich and famous.
Murder One/Two/Three - Murder in the 1st/2nd/3rd Degree.
Outcry witness - A sex crime not reported by the victim but by a third party such as a friend or family member they have confided in or a doctor/nurse who finds signs of sexual abuse during a medical examination.
Perp walk - The suspect being publicly escorted to court for an arraignment hearing, sometimes in a blaze of publicity. This has become frowned upon in recent years as unnecessarily embarrassing, especially given how many cases do not lead to a conviction, leaving the accused officially innocent in the eyes of the law.
Probable Cause - The police having a reasonable degree of evidence to justify their actions.
Pro Se - A legal term used for someone who opts to represent himself/herself either in a criminal or civil court proceeding. While Pro Se is the proper term for it in New York, other jurisdictions call it Pro Per. A popular phrase associated with this is "He/she who represents himself/herself has a fool for a client. This is because self-representation is considered the most foolish act in the legal profession because private citizens don't have as much knowledge of the legal system at their disposal and don't have the same resources an attorney has to research and prepare for their case.
Rape One/Two/Three - Rape in the 1st/2nd/3rd Degree.
Riker's Island - New York's holding prison for those on remand awaiting trial.
SAID-Sexual Allegations In Divorce. One parent in a divorce accusing the other of sexual abuse of their children in order to gain full custody.
Sex abuse compensation - In reaction to a conviction for sexual abuse as a child, victims are entitled to claim financial compensation from the state and are entitled to sue individuals, private companies or public bodies for not protecting them from the abuse (in the UK and New Zealand a conviction is not even necessary). Defence lawyers and campaign groups for those falsely accused of sex crimes are highly critical of this practice, suggesting it provides a monetary incentive for false allegations. In Germany accusers are not given money at all but free therapy instead in order to prevent this.
Sub Judice - Literally 'under trial'. Once court proceedings begin there are limits placed on the prosecution lawyers and police over the public pronouncements they can make concerning the trial for fear of influencing it. Many previous high profile failed prosecutions/miscarriages of justice have been blamed on the case beginning in a blaze of publicity making the police and prosecutors reluctant to lose face and drop the investigation once their initial evidence is discredited.
T.A.R.U. - Technical Assistance Response Unit a unit of the New York City Police Department who provides investigative technical equipment and tactical support to all bureaus within the department, in addition they also provide assistance to other City, State and Federal agencies.
T.O.D. - Time of Death.
Tombs - Custody cells at police stations.
Voir Dire - Literally "To see, to say", a preliminary hearing for the judge and lawyers to examine the credibility of witnesses and jurors. Edit (Coming Soon)
The following are the Miranda Rights as they exist in New York State today:
* You have the right to remain silent;
* Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
* You have a right to an attorney;
* If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you. Edit (Coming Soon)
At least 5. Roger Barry in 'Redemption' (S3 Ep6), Lincoln Harer in 'Closet' (S9 Ep16), Malcom Esten in 'Unstable' (S11 Ep 1), Javier Vega in 'Criminal' (S5 Ep 21) and Omar Pena in 'Justice Denied' (S13 Ep 17) . In terms of innocent people brought to trial the list runs into the dozens and innocent people arrested into the hundreds. Edit (Coming Soon)
American law allows for the 'false deception ploy' where the police can claim to have evidence (fingerprints, DNA, CCTV, witnesses) they do not in order to gain a confession, the idea being that any innocent person would know such evidence could not exist and see through it. This has become increasingly controversial however due to cases such as the Central Park 5 rape case where the suspects were told their co-defendants were saying they were responsible so they accused them in turn only to be exonerated years later. Edit (Coming Soon)
The police will arrest and interview suspects if they think there is sufficient evidence against them. It is then up to the District Attorney's (D.A) Office to decide if there is enough evidence to charge. If there is then a representative from the DA's office an Assistant District Attorney (A.D.A) will bring the accused before a Judge for an arraignment hearing, to decide when and where they will be put on trial and if they will get bail (released either on their own word or with a monetary security deposit) or be held in custody in the meantime ('remand'). Afterwards the DA will go before the Grand Jury and present their case and the Grand Jury decides if there is enough evidence to justify them going to trial. The prosecution has the duty of disclosure, presenting all their evidence to the defence for them to be able to refute. The onus for conviction is on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant doesn't have to prove their innocence, its up to the prosecution to establish their guilt. The defence lawyers have a duty of confidentiality towards their clients much like a doctor but there are exceptions such as information which threatens life. As officers of the court both defence and prosecution have a responsibility to report any malpractice in the system. Edit (Coming Soon)
The Bush administration introduced laws to counter child sex tourism, making it an offence to travel to a foreign country in order to have sex with anyone who would be underage in the United States (the age of consent in countries like Germany is 14 and as low as 12 in some parts of Mexico). However this has proved extremely hard to enforce as it is necessary to prove their specific intent for the trip rather than them forming the idea once they were abroad. The same principle applies to transporting a minor across state lines, it must be proven that the intent was to have sex with them in a state where it would be legal. Edit (Coming Soon)
Official policy is always to believe the accuser unless there is overwhelming proof to the contrary (such as the suspect having been abroad at the time of the alleged crime or other factors making the accuser's account of events impossible etc). This means those accused will at very least be arrested and interviewed to gain their side of the story and searches made for forensic or other evidence (e.g. seizing personal computers if it is suspected they contain child pornography or recordings of sex crimes). Whether they are then prosecuted depends on whether the district attorney considers there to be a realistic prospect of conviction. By the same measure defence lawyers have a legal obligation to believe in their client's innocence and do the best they can to represent their interests. Edit (Coming Soon)
Yes and it is life long, the media forbidden to print their name and photo unless they agree to it. However this has become extremely hard to enforce in the internet age. It has been widely suggested that defendants also be granted anonymity given the stigma surrounding sex crimes but this has been hugely controversial as it would prevent potential further victims coming forward once they had seen the publicity. Edit (Coming Soon)
According to a survey by the charity RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) of 310 rapes reported to police 57 resulted in the arrest of a suspect of whom 7 were then successfully prosecuted, a conviction rate of 2%. The conviction rate for child sex abuse is higher as there are no issues surrounding consent and a conviction can be secured virtually through DNA/child pornography evidence alone. Edit (Coming Soon)
A time frame after which a prosecution cannot go ahead. In New York law there is no limit for First Degree crimes (those which are pre-planned and deliberate), a 5 year limit for Second Degree (deliberate but not pre-planned) and 2 years for lesser offences such as Sexual Misconduct (lesser sexual assaults). Edit (Coming Soon)
The show is reasonably accurate in terms of investigation and prosecution and the nature of sex crimes and other related offences. It falls into many of the unrealistic clichés of cop shows, endless resources and time to investigate even trivial offences, computers and forensics with impossible capabilities instantly available at a detectives whim, officers able to appear in the media one day yet still work undercover the next, a single group of officers dealing with all crimes and the ability to take people in for questioning without formally arresting them. The SVU squad also have an unerring propensity for getting people in their care killed without ever being held to account for their negligence whilst their undercover stings often stray into entrapment. However the specific errors applicable to Law & Order; SVU include; (1) The same detectives dealing with both victim and suspect, this would never happen in real life for the fear of forensic cross contamination (forensic material being transferred from one to another via the hands and clothing of a third party). (2) Detectives will often lead witnesses in their testimony, suggesting details and occasionally even telling them they have been raped before they ever claimed to be. (3) Using threats and even physical coercion during interviews which would not only make them inadmissible but probably result in the officers being prosecuted. (4) Interviewing underage and vulnerable suspects without the presence of an appropriate adult. (5)The SVU team continue to engage with suspects after they have been represented by counsel and influence the testimony of witnesses which would be downright illegal. (6) Medical examinations which can differentiate between rape and violent consensual sex, in real life such a definitive conclusion would be impossible. (7) The SVU regularly break the rules by investigating incidents in which they have a personal involvement involving friends, family members and fellow officers from which they should automatically recuse themselves or refer to the Internal Affairs department. Officers also continue to interact with suspects and witnesses who have made formal complaints against them and violate the jurisdictional boundaries of other law enforcers. (8) An unethically close relationship between the police and the District Attorney's office where prosecutions are often based on the influence of personal friendships rather than a neutral appraisal of the evidence (we also witness SVU members illicitly leak information to the press). Last but not least civilians appear to be able to walk into the SVU offices at will. Edit (Coming Soon)
Level one sex offenders are those convicted of the lower end sex offences, voyeurism, minor sexual assault, exposure, possession of child pornography, sex with someone only slightly under the age of consent etc Level two are those who commit serious sexual assaults, offences against younger children and forcible rape. Level three are repeat offenders of level two offences. Level one offenders drop off the sex offenders register after a few years whilst level two and three stay on for life. Edit (Coming Soon)
The defendant's previous criminal history can be introduced at the discretion of the judge but only if the previous offence is so strikingly similar to the current one it goes beyond coincidence. The victim's past sexual history should always be excluded unless there is a direct correlation to the case, such as an accuser claiming to have been a virgin only for the defence to produce one of their prior partners. Edit (Coming Soon)