How Real is ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’?

Each week, millions of viewers tune in to watch one of the longest-running television shows in history. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has been a fan favorite for 20 seasons, and we just can’t get enough.

The show is exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. It is an exhilarating experience to watch the amazing cast on the show sort through mountains of evidence to ultimately bring justice to a victim of a horrible crime. 

While most everyone would like to think that if they were to spend the day working with detectives and attorneys, they would feel as if they were in a real-life version of their favorite television program, this may not necessarily be true.

Keep in mind that the talented writers must find a way to condense complicated stories into a one-hour time frame and still be able to portray it realistically, while not leaving out any important details. This is no easy task for any show to do, and Law & Order: SVU does it perfectly.

Fans should remember that while the show is extremely realistic and well-done, there may be things that wouldn’t happen in real life. So, how real is Law & Order: SVU?

Trials happen quickly on ‘Law and Order: SVU’

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay as Lieutenant Olivia Benson | Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

On the show, the trial usually happens pretty quickly, when in reality, it can take months or even years for a case to go to trial. We understand that in the world of television, it is necessary to have the trial happen immediately since it has to be aired in the same episode.

Otherwise, cases would not be able to be completed in a timely manner for the time frame that is allotted.

Suspects are very willing to talk

In a real-life case, detectives often have to find creative ways to get suspects to confess to a crime. On Law & Order: SVU, while a suspect may be hesitant at first to give up valuable information, it seems the detectives are able to get them to spill the beans within minutes.

Most people are well aware that this wouldn’t happen in a real situation, and police often have to spend significant time tracking down a suspect and even more significant time interrogating them.

The detectives make a lot of in-person visits

In the world of Law & Order: SVU, we see the detectives, such as Olivia Benson and Amanda Rollins, making a large number of in-person visits to victims, even to deliver minor tidbits of news.

In reality, busy detectives wouldn’t have time to make all of these face-to-face trips, and unless they had to have an in-depth conversation, they would simply pick up the phone for quick updates. 

Detectives become personally involved in cases

Talk to any real-life detective, and chances are, they are handling several cases at any one time. On the show, however, it is a different situation, and understandably so.

The squad is focusing on one case at a time, and often, they become personally involved in what is happening. We have seen detectives shed tears over victims, and they tend to relate crimes to their personal and family lives.

Although real-life detectives are very sympathetic to victims of crimes, they focus more on solving the case than becoming emotionally attached.

We can certainly understand that on a show that is scripted for television, certain things have to be tweaked from the way they would happen in real life. Law & Order: SVU is a show that is extremely well-written. It is captivating and has a huge fan base.

Although there are some things that go down a little differently than they would in actuality, we have to say that this is one show we won’t stop watching any time soon.