How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be?
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Topic: How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be?

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    Default How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be?

    For my current script, I have asked some people's opinions on what I have so far, and the outline, but opinions have been negative, saying that it's not legally accurate. That is true, I sort of sacrificed technicalities for the sake of drama.

    I have written two draft versions of the script so far, and I could go with either. One is a very legally accurate execution, placing technicalities first, so it shouldn't bother readers.

    The other is one where the technicalities are sacrificed when need be for drama, which may be quite a bit. I feel that in this version, the characters are pushed to their moral limits and extremes more as much as possible, where as in the legally accurate version, characters are more forced to play by the rules, but as a result they do not paint themselves into legal corners.

    What do you think would be a better approach to embrace, when writing this type of genre? Like if you watch certain movies like The Departed or The Negotiator, certain things are made up for the sake of suspense, but I am not sure where the line is drawn, and how far to cross it.

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    Super Moderator   How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? mara's Avatar
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    The question is not whether something is legally accurate but whether it's close enough that viewers will accept it.
    As I've said many times, my dad was a judge & he laughed at the police and court dramas as being ridiculous, but the average viewer can't tell the difference.

    AGAIN: watch television and movies and see what people accept. 99.9% of the audience won't know the difference.

    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    Okay thanks. I have a couple of ideas but not sure if they would be accepted cause I have not seen either of them in a movie or TV before. I can keep looking, but not sure where the line is drawn, when it comes to how much people know about their amendment rights and laws like that.

    Basically one idea is that a character kidnaps a criminals factory, and the ransom demand is to give the police evidence of a murder, since the kidnapper wants the man to be charged with murder.

    I was told by legal experts, that even if a man tells the police where a dead body is buried, and the body has the man's DNA on it, it won't be admissible in court, since the man was extorted into giving up the dead body by a kidnapper, and that violates the man's 5th amendment rights... therefore not admissible evidence to be charged with.

    Do you think if I break this rule and write that he is charged, audiences won't care?

    Last edited by ironpony; 10-07-2016 at 03:09 PM.

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    Super Moderator   How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? mara's Avatar
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    if a body is buried, it's not going to have usable dna on it.

    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    Oh okay. Do you think if I write it so that it's usable anyway, audiences would care?


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    Super Moderator   How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? mara's Avatar
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    Just think about it logically: a body decays after it's dead and buried, and we all know that. You'd better come up with an inventive way of having it be on the body and preserved.

    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    Well maybe I don't need a dead body necessarily. Earlier in the story, the gang of villains is putting one of it's member's through a blood in. A blood in is where you spill the blood of another person in order to get into the gang.

    The gang leader videotaped the blood in, in case if the new recruit ever was going to turn on him, the leader could use the video as leverage over him, to keep him from not turning.

    I was thinking that I could continue the idea of having leverage videos and have the police find a whole stash of them, on all the members, which will give them the evidence they need to arrest the gang.

    The MC could follow the villain and sees him go to a secluded piece of land, in the middle of nowhere, and hides out of sight, while watching the villain. He sees the villain dig into the ground and put something there.

    He waits for the villain to leave, and then digs up what the villain put there. It's the blood in videos, and the police use this as evidence. Since it was buried up outdoor public land, the police are not violating any 4th amendment rights. They also do not need a warrant and can view the videos without one now.

    Does this evidence work better than a dead body that has been buried?


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    Super Moderator   How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? mara's Avatar
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    Yes, that works much better.

    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    Okay then. The only thing is, is I don't know why the villain himself is keeping the videos buried in the ground. It's a strange place to keep them and it only serves the plot in a legal technicality sense. But is it logical for himself as a character to keep them in the ground?


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    Pro Member   How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? How legally accurate does a crime thriller have to be? khathawayart's Avatar
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    Totally legally accurate is not necessarily a goal---but it has to be at least superficially accurate. If you can "fool" 90% of your audience, that may be enough to make it work. If only the lawyers in your audience will notice, you may get away with it--but yes--as Mara has indicated--make it as accurate as possible for the story. Some of the dumbest scripts I've read are those that just break rules that we almost ALL understand--and it stands out as amateurish.


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    Okay thanks. Well there are several scripts that throw a lot of legalities out the window I've noticed, such as Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, etc. So I feel maybe I can get away with quite a bit maybe.


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