Artistic License – Law
aka: Artistic Licence Law

Strong Bad: This is a sub-poe-eena! I summons Exhibit 4-B to my chambers!
Homestar Runner: Sustained! (hits self in face with gavel)

This is a listing of liberties taken with how law is presented.

Frequently an Acceptable Break From Reality in that real litigation takes months, not minutes, and almost none of it happens in court. But watching lawyers read mountains of documents and write briefs isn't something anyone really wants to do. Lawyers don't, because if you're going to watch someone do legal work you may as well do it yourself (and get paid), and laypeople audiences don't because it's boring as hell. So while most depictions of legal procedures outside of literature have very little to do with the way law is actually practiced, most people are okay with this, because real legal procedures tend to be No Fun At All.

Note that laws vary across different countries and jurisdictions. What may be therefore seen as an example of this by people from one region may actually be valid legal procedure in another, and vice versa. (This can also be noted for historical works — most legal systems have been fine-tuned over centuries; go back 200 years and chances are court procedures are comparatively sloppy.) Also note that as with all Acceptable Breaks from Reality, this can get out of hand, particularly when it's the substance of the law, not the procedure, that the creators are screwing up.

NOTE: This should not be listed on a work's page as a trope.


  • Ambulance Chaser: In some jurisdictions (such as Europe), being one of these is illegal. Even places where it's legal still take a very dim view of this. Taking a worthless case just to shake someone down with a scary letter and make them panic-settle is, at the very least, going to net you an envelope in the mail with a none-too-polite letter from their attorney. Making a habit of this will earn you an entry on your public record and/or the disciplinary action section of the state legal circular, up to being disbarred if the courts simply get tired of dealing with you. The same goes for representing clients in an overly aggressive, belligerent, and uncivil manner; taking a no-holds-barred, scorched-earth approach to representation is a great way to lose cases, get sued for malpractice, and, again, find yourself on the wrong end of a smackdown from a pissed-off judge or state bar association.
  • Amoral Attorney: Attorneys are supposed to be impartial and give all clients the best representation that they can possibly provide. If they absolutely cannot represent a client in good faith, they have an ethical and legal obligation to relieve themselves of their duty; the level of moral bankruptcy that is often seen in fiction would have gotten most attorneys suspended or disbarred a long time ago.
  • Bail Equals Freedom: Bail is treated as an easy way to skip a future trial and possible sentencing. In real life, it's a monetary guarantee that the accused will show up for trial and "jumping bail" is a crime in itself, and flight risks or those who pose a clear and present threat to the community will generally not be granted bail.
  • Chalk Outline: Not done in Real Life. It contaminates the scene. May have been occasionally used in the distant past, before cameras.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Creative or unorthodox tactics have a place in law. Frivolous and/or sophistic ones do not. A good judge will tell an attorney who is using one to quit wasting the court's time.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Just because you marry someone from another country doesn't mean you automatically become a citizen of that country, and immigration authorities are quite wise to the usual green card/sham marriage tricks.note 
  • Conviction by Contradiction: While a legal case has to hold together logically to some extent, "logic dictates that this must be what happened" is not sufficient for a conviction in a criminal case. In a civil case, the principle of res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) applies, and it basically amounts to "we can't conclusively prove just how this occurred, but there is simply no explanation that does not open the defendant up to liability" (i.e., a section of pallet racking collapses and crushes an employee; whatever the reason may be, properly maintained and loaded pallet racks are not supposed to suddenly collapse on people). Furthermore, an investigation that seems may be running solely on the fact someone used the wrong grammar on his statement as "the clue" (to give an example, but equally flimsy things have been used in fiction) would probably be dismissed as harassment.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: A defendant's statement, testimony, or alibi, or a witness's testimony is not automatically and completely discredited just because it contains one item that isn't absolutely true. Trials in some places happen months or even years after the fact, depending on the crime; in that time, details can very easily become fuzzy in a person's memory.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: Law enforcement officers and agencies cannot hire or use someone else to circumvent their own rules. There are laws for that sort of loophole, like entrapment.
  • Courtroom Antic: Many of these common in fiction would result in the lawyer being warned, and possibly removed from the case or punished for contempt of court. Major antics could be cause for the verdict to be overturned on appeal (See "Off on a Technicality"), or could cause the judge to declare a mistrial, and a consistently ill-behaved lawyer would risk disbarment. While the courts tend to be a little more lenient with pro se litigants, being disruptive, verbally abusive, or aggressive will still result in the court telling you to knock it off.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: What is and is not "self-defense" is complicated and thorny legal ground, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally speaking, self-defense claims require that the threat instigated the event, you only used the amount of force necessary to remove the threat, and immediately stopped once the threat was gone. And even that only might work. Telling the nice police officer "But it was self-defense!" won't keep you out of court, and it is most certainly not a defense to things like Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Real-life abuses of it definitely occur, but any nation that values its relationship with the host country will deal with it. International incidents do not exactly foster goodwill, especially serious criminal offenses. Should the sending country not deal with it, the host can always make the offender "persona non grata" (or, in layman's terms, "you've more than worn out your welcome, get out and don't come back"), which is not great for international relations, but neither is inaction on the sender's part. Matters can be complicated in cases where the offender has committed an offense that is treated far more harshly in the sending country.
  • Disregard That Statement: There are types of questions an attorney simply may not ask a witness in court. There are types of statements a trial attorney may not make in court. Asking such questions or making such statements deliberately, then backing down from it with "Disregard that" or "Withdrawn" is a risky tactic for a trial lawyer. The courts do have the power to sanction a lawyer who does this excessively or blatantly, not to mention the risk of creating something appeal-worthy. As a rule, the sort of things that gets said in fiction would get most lawyers in a world of hurt.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Divorce has a way of bringing out the absolute worst in people, but the scorched-earth behavior that is often seen in fiction can and will lead to sanctions against both the offending party and their attorney. Your attorney's job is to advocate for your interests, not help you wage war on your ex-spouse.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: People in every country have seen a lot of American Law Procedurals, and often assume the law works similarly when making one set in their own country. Blame Hollywood.
  • Emancipated Child: Truth in television, though less common and less easy than TV would have you believe. There has to be evidence that the parents are unfit to take care of them, that there are no relatives willing or able to act as legal guardians, that they are sufficiently mature and capable of making good decisions, and that the child can reasonably support themselves (meaning that they can demonstrate that they are currently financially self-sufficient and will continue to be, as well as being unlikely to apply for welfare or resort to illegal sources of income.) They will not be granted custody of younger siblings at the same time, either, unless circumstances are well and truly bizarre; if both parents are unfit, there are no willing, able, or fit relatives who could step up, and the petitioner is able to sufficiently care for the siblings and the court feels that it would be in their mutual best interest, they may grant it, but it's a high threshold.
  • Empty Cop Threat: They may try it. But they do so knowing it's an empty threat.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: In the past, it was used (hence references to "rubber hoses" or "the third degree" or vague threats by cops to "take you down to the station and see how tough you are" in many Hard Boiled Detective novels.) Now, even suggesting it is a no-go.
  • Failed Execution, No Sentence: There used to be a time when people surviving an execution (or a set amount of execution attempts, such as being hanged three times) were given a full pardon, being seen as God's will. More recently (talking at least a hundred-plus years or so), this was started to be seen as a no-no (this is why any execution sentencing will have the judge saying that the method will be applied "until (the prisoner is) dead"). Of course, Fiction Isn't Fair and not only does this code lives on, but sometimes will be presented in a sillier fashion.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: At best, it's stupid. At worst, it's evidence-tampering. And it's not up to the cop investigating the scene to figure out what a mysterious substance is, anyway. That's what the crime lab is for.
  • A Fool for a Client: In real life, representing oneself pro se is generally a really bad idea, but there is little truth to the notion that all pro se litigants are either crazy or have no case. Most are just people of limited means trying to resolve a problem to the best of their ability. Crazies and bullies exist, but they do not represent the majority of pro se litigants. Also, courts recognize that a good pro se litigant is trying to resolve their issue, and generally work with them or take it easy on them.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Lawyers are required by law to make a reasonable inquiry into the factual and legal merit of every case before filing, in order to reasonably ensure that it is legitimate; if they fail to do so, they can face sanctions. In Real Life, most frivolous suits are simply thrown out of court. Furthermore, threatening someone with a worthless lawsuit just to intimidate them is likely to result in a letter from their attorney that can be loosely translated as "stop wasting my time," or setting up a Morton's Fork where the lawyer says "I know you have no case, so either drop the lawsuit or get destroyed in court." Repeatedly filing these as a pro se litigant is also a great way to be declared a vexatious litigant, which doesn't bar you from filing so much as it makes it incredibly difficult and expensive to do so as a way of curbing a lengthy, well-established pattern of abuse.
  • Gold Digger: This is what prenuptial agreements are for. While they generally aren't 100% foolproof, a good prenup will keep one of these from hollowing you out in a divorce. As for wills, one of these convincing a testator to leave everything to them presents a slam-dunk case for undue influence come probate.
  • Grade-School C.E.O.: Minors (especially those under the age of 12) in most developed nations cannot sign contracts or hold employment. When a parent dies, leaving control of major assets to their child or children, a Trust or Conservatorship will be created by the court to manage the assets and look after the best interest of the child, if the parent didn't create one in their will.
  • Hero Insurance: In Real Life, such things as "Good Samaritan" Laws exist to help people prevent from getting sued if they have to help with an emergency — but only within reason. Not getting sued if you hurt someone while applying the Heimlich Maneuver is "within reason". Demolishing five city blocks while pursuing a criminal as a vigilante is not. And also needs be said — Good Samaritan Laws don't force you to help.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Like other types of Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique / Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, information obtained through them would be seen as illegally acquired (and unreliable because it was given under torture) and a serious backfire on the career of anybody who so much as proposes it would ensue.
  • Hilarity Sues: Seriously depends on the application and the jurisdiction. There are times when (seen from the outside in) it would be perfectly legal to apply them (yet Fiction Isn't Fair), but other times it falls under the purview of Frivolous Lawsuit and all the issues it implies (explained above).
  • Hollywood Law: The multiple methods through which Hollywood has perverted law in order to squeeze a little bit more drama out of a law and order story is just impossible to count. Suffice to say, it's easier to point out when is law being showcased correctly.
  • Inheritance Murder: Slayer clauses automatically prevent beneficiaries from inheriting anything if they kill the testator.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: Considering the fact that we have not made actual extraterrestrial contact, it is impossible to determine how this Trope would actually work out in Real Life—and yet, long story short, the one court case known that could be considered precedent for the ruling of "if you're an extraterrestrial, you have no rights" is very visibly a judge's use of Laser-Guided Karma on a Frivolous Lawsuit's plaintiff. Several jurisdictions (such as Scotland) apply murder under a broad sense of "willful destruction of life", and there are 70 nations that currently have laws forbidding human cloning — should it ever become possible.
  • Insanity Defense: In real life, if an insanity defense works, the defendant doesn't walk out of court a free person. They walk out of court in the company of a couple of burly orderlies from a mental institution. Whether they ever walk out of there a free person depends on the psychiatrists and psychologists. Their stay can very well be longer than what their prison sentence would have been. Also, an insanity defense is only used in less than 1% of US criminal trials, and is successful ~25% of the time. That's less than one quarter of one one-hundredth of criminal cases that it works. Note that this has nothing to do with legal competence; being adjudicated incompetent is an entirely different matter, though it often follows that someone who is legally incompetent is likely also criminally incompetent.
  • Insurance Fraud and Real Estate Scam: They happen, but real-life insurance and fair-housing investigators are much wiser to the usual tricks than fictional ones tend to be.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Damage to property (or threatening to) is illegal anyway, let alone when used to get information.
  • In Vino Veritas: Truth in Television, but not as much as fiction would have you believe. Still, ask a detective who has been around for long enough and odds are decent that they will remember at least one case that was cold or on its way to becoming cold that wound up being rejuvenated by a drunken slip of the tongue.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Varies depending on jurisdiction. Varies wildly.
  • Made Out to Be a Jerkass: A very risky move on a Real Life court of law. Even the biggest jerk in the galaxy can have an actual legal grievance, so trying to redirect the blame to make the plaintiff look like an asshole that deserves whatever crime he was a victim of just makes the defendant look like a Manipulative Bastard—also, this is why juries are instructed and screened to try to keep bias out of the equation (although it doesn't always succeed). It can also actually be a defense in defamation cases; if the plaintiff's reputation is already so terrible that there's no more damage that can realistically be done, the "actual harm" portion of most defamation statutes may be impossible to satisfy.
  • Motive Equals Conclusive Evidence: Having a reason to commit the crime is not enough evidence to put you in jail nor for the investigators to stop looking for answers.
  • Murder Simulators: While people have been killed in the name of video games before, using the fact that a person played a violent video game (or had a history of playing them) is not enough to declare anyone mentally unfit or insane.
  • Must State If You're a Cop: Undercover officers are under no obligation to inform criminals that they're police, even when asked about it point-blank. That said, cops are in no hurry to correct people who believe this; letting the urban legend thrive helps with their job.
  • No Badge? No Problem!: In real life, the police take a very dim view of people acting like they have legal authority when their position does not give it. In this case what varies by jurisdiction is not whether you'll get in trouble for doing it, but how deep the trouble will be. Exceptions exist (namely citizen's arrest), but those are highly situational and afford you far fewer privileges than would normally be available to law enforcement.
  • Not Proven: It's not enough for the police and prosecutors to say "well, who else could it have been?" — they have to have a sufficiently strong legal case against a specific person, built on admissible evidence and through witness testimony. In addition, in the United States, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and it must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant is guilty. In short, it's not "no one else could have done it;" it's "only this person could have done it, and here's why." Sort of subverted for civil cases, as "preponderance of the evidence" is the civil standard of proof and can generally be taken to mean "there's enough evidence to indicate that you're liable"; there can be a shadow of a doubt, but the evidence against you is strong enough that beyond maybe a few slightly contentious points, any real doubt is willful contrarianism.
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Varies by jurisdiction, but broadly speaking it is illegal in most jurisdictions (either barging into a house to obtain evidence without a warrant or stalking a suspect for the sake of Perp Sweating) "In plain view" is the most common exception (i.e., the police pulled you over for expired tags and spotted meth-making equipment through the back window), but most exceptions are extremely circumstantial.
  • Off on a Technicality: A case being "dismissed on a technicality" almost always means that the police (during their investigation) or the prosecutor (during the trial) screwed up big-time and did something that they aren't allowed to do, or didn't do something that they are required to do. In some cases it means that the prosecutor chose the wrong charges to file.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: As a general rule of thumb, in small towns you'll find "country lawyers" who do a little of everything, for typically small stakes. For cases involving large sums of money or very complex, specialized areas of law, you'll want an attorney who specializes in that area, and in fact, most small-town lawyers will "tag-team" with a specialized lawyer to take a case to court. It's just like the difference between a general-practice physician and a specialized surgeon.
  • One Phone Call: In the US, you don't have to be given "one phone call". You have to be given a reasonable opportunity to get in touch with legal counsel.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: If you've been charged with anything with consequences above a ticket, call your lawyer. You are always entitled to legal counsel, whether you have committed the crime you are accused of or not. Using that right does not make you look guilty by default, and having a lawyer present can protect you from a wide range of things.
  • On One Condition: Can be Truth in Television up to a point, but particularly outlandish conditions and/or those that restrict the beneficiary from exercising a fundamental right or are otherwise against public policy are likely to be found invalid.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Courts hate vigilantes and revenge stories and they're not going to give you a break just because your victim really had it coming. At best, it may serve as a mitigating factor during sentencing depending on how good a reason you had. At worst, it will result in an even harsher sentence, especially if what you did struck beyond the pale or if the prosecution can establish that you were just looking for a good excuse to seriously harm or kill someone.
  • The Perry Mason Method: The defense does not have to find the "real" culprit — to establish reasonable doubt, all a competent defense attorney needs to do is weaken the prosecution's case to "not proven" and/or posit another theory of events.
  • Plea Bargain: The reality varies widely by jurisdiction. In the US, where it's most common, the biggest difference between fact and fiction is when it's offered; in Real Life, a plea bargain is almost never offered once the trial has begun.
  • Precrime Arrest: For the most part, the current justice systems around the world make a serious emphasis on "innocent until proven guilty" and "punishment after the crime". Attempting to capture someone before a crime has been committed (and there is no solid evidence of criminal conspiracy to support the suspicion) would be seen as wrongful arrest or even entrapment... and this is without taking into account the sci-fi angle of the Trope (which could be seen as violation of privacy, plus whichever discussion would ensue if there is a possibility, however small, for the criminal to say "Screw Destiny"...)
  • Rape and Revenge: The type of premeditated manhunts that are standard to this trope would be considered straight-up murder, especially when it's someone other than the victim themselves doing it. (See also Crime of Self-Defense).
  • Read the Fine Print: Contract law is as wildly varied and thorny as self-defense law, but as a rule of thumb you must at least to be able to read it (and although fiction depicts contracts as irrevocably binding, in reality courts sometimes decide that certain parts of a contract are unenforceable for one reason or another, with vagueness and/or being overly broad being the most common reasons.)
  • Reading Your Rights: Varies wildly by jurisdiction.
  • Rogue Juror: Specifically, the "Amateur Sleuth in the jury starts own investigation" sub-division (which has appeared in various ways including Trope Codifier "12 Angry Men"). Any attempt at doing this, be it sneaking out from wherever the jury has been sequestered or try to ask questions to a witness right in the middle of the court room) will equal getting kicked out of the jury and probably get arrested for perjury.
  • Rules Lawyer: Varies wildly. Depending on the laws being cited, there is bound to be some stretching of definitions in a way that helps your case and/or hinders theirs, but there is a definite line of acceptability. It's up to a judge to decide when you've gone from "a bit of a stretch, but okay" to "blatant Chewbacca Defense", and sanctions may be possible if you have a particularly flimsy or outright frivolous case that you attempted to prop up with some particularly ridiculous semantic leaps. Words count, but they don't mean shit if the case itself has no meat, and if you are successful in basing a substantial portion of your case around the interpretation of certain laws, it was either due to an incredibly specific set of circumstances or a badly-worded statute or decision.
  • Sensitivity Training: A regular workplace comedy trope in fiction, an actual legal necessity in Real Life. Companies that are able to show that employees were told what not to do (and yet did it anyway) in a sexual harassment or hostile work environment lawsuit will be better protected than those who didn't.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Truth in Television in the past, but increasingly rare today to the point of being a Dead Horse Trope (See "Omnidisciplinary Lawyer").
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: In Real Life, they do; while their effectiveness is largely tied to budgetary limitations, they do the absolute best that they can. As a result, events that would bring their attention to a child's plight (such as Hilariously Abusive Childhood) but would be shrugged off in fiction will be dealt with.
  • Solomon Divorce: Not totally unusual in Real Life divorces (in the legal terminology, this is usually called a "split parenting situation"), however because it can be a traumatic experience for a child, the total disconnection from the other siblings that is seen in fiction is frowned upon if not forbidden by law (so such thing as visitation times or some psychological counsel are at least suggested).
    • A regular variation on this Trope is that one parent gets the sole legal and physical/residential custody of the childrennote  with no visitation/parenting time for the other spouse. This one is a doozy... note 
  • Spousal Privilege: Fictional uses of this tend to be considerably broader than Real Life laws allow.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: This varies from country to country.
  • Streisand Effect: Truth in Television, and can often play a major role in deciding whether litigation is worth it. Yes, you may have a case, yes, you'll probably prevail, and hell, you may even be in the right morally. If the circumstances of the case make it very likely that you'll kick up a shitstorm by litigating, however, a good attorney will advise you to seriously consider whether being right is worth the blow to your reputation. There are times where a favorable determination is not worth the consequences in the court of public opinion.
  • There Is No Higher Court: Well, yes, eventually you'll get to the highest court that has jurisdiction to hear the case. Depending on the jurisdiction that could be quite a few steps.
  • We All Live in America: Once again, Real Life law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The United States has created a large amount of "law" shows since the inception of film and television. We seriously recommend that you consult your local laws, otherwise you (and your show) will be mocked for Critical Research Failure at the very least.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In Real Life, there are three things wrong with this scenario:
    1. If someone has been successfully framed for a serious crime, they most likely aren't free to investigate it. They're in jail or on the run from the law.
    2. To the legal system, why you committed a crime is utterly irrelevant. Having a good reason doesn't get you any points unless, say, it gets murder knocked down to involuntary manslaughter.
    3. If you've already been convicted, even later-proven innocence is not a defense. You don't have a right to a pardon, a new trial (unless there was a procedural error) or any reduction of your sentence.note 

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    Comic Books 

  • Comic book writer and lawyer Bob Ingersoll has written the column "The Law Is a Ass" since the 1980s. In it, he points out various legal situations that comic book writers have gotten wrong in their stories.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Iron Man 2, during the Senate Committee hearing, Senator Stern orders Rhodes to read a single line from his report on the Iron Man armor — clearly out of context — about Iron Man being a potential threat, then cuts him off before he could explain what he meant. Tony had every right to ask Rhodes to finish his statement. Of course, Rhodey calls out the Senator when he makes this demand.
  • In Jem and the Holograms, Jerrica is asked to sign a solo recording contract by music executive Erica Raymond. Nearly everything about the signing scene is wrong:
    • There is no lawyer present for the signing, nor a review of the contract. Jerrica simply takes a cursory look at the contact and signs without reading any of the fine print.
    • Multiple reviews of the film pointed out that there are virtually no major record label contracts that only require you to initial the first page. Nearly every contract signing, regardless of industry, requires that the signer(s) read and initial each page so that they understand what is being said.
    • Jerrica waives away any royalties or income until an unspecified point in time after her tour is completed. No mention is made by her of how she's supposed to support herself, how Erica's offer is better than any other label's or how this is legally sound.
    • Finally, Jerrica signs the document as "Jem", her stage alias. Not only is this absurd, but it isn't legally enforceable. If she chose to, Jerrica could break the contract and simply claim that the signature wasn't hers if she was taken to court.
  • In I Shot Jesse James, the outlaw Frank James is acquitted of charges in Colorado, and the jail immediately lets him go, even though they acknowledge he's wanted in other states like Kansas and Missouri. In reality, the Colorado authorities would’ve alerted the other states (telegrams were widespread by 1892, so there wouldn’t be a long delay) and kept Frank locked up until one of the states contacted them about extradition via the U.S. Marshals.
  • The Hitman's Bodyguard:
    • Massive liberties are taken to make Kincaid's testimony the only thing that can get Belorussian ex-dictator Dukhovich convicted at the Hague. A victim whose family was killed in front of him and was put in a work camp for three years has his entire testimony dismissed out of hand, with the implications that all of the other witnesses so far have had the same. Such testimony would not simply be declared "hearsay" (which, by the way, is when a witness is asked what they were told happened by somebody else, not what happened to them personally) and struck even if the defense claimed they were merely political opponents doing smear jobs. Somehow Kincaid was the only person to have pictures as proof of Dukhovich's crimes despite this being set in the modern day and that is the only kind of evidence that seems to work.
    • Also, it is entirely possible to have witnesses testify from remote locations. Kincaid could easily have testified on a video chat from his cell and given the website information from there. This is common practice when the witness might be endangered by coming to the trial.
    • Even disregarding the above, you'd think the court would be a little more lax with the Exact Time to Failure considering that someone tried to murder Kincaid en route to the Hague.

  • Shadow Ops has to take some... liberties with the law to make its story surrounding a Superhuman Registration Act even remotely possible.
    • The McGauer-Linden Act, which allows the government to imprison or conscript Latents into military service - especially as a huge number of Latents are teenagers - is extremely unconstitutional. In US law, no Congressional act or executive order can violate the Constitution, and the McGrauer-Linden Act is among the most extreme imaginable violations of due process, which is protected by the Fifth Amendment.
    • In addition, the mere existence of FOB Frontier is a violation of the War Powers Resolution, which says that the President must inform Congress within 48 hours of a foreign military deployment and must withdraw them within ninety days without a Congressional authorization of military support. It's no surprise that the President is really, really unhappy with the idea of FOB Frontier becoming public and is willing to let everyone there die to keep it a secret.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Madam Secretary: During the election arc in the first half of season three, President Dalton, after losing his party's primary and unable to win a majority in the electoral college while running as an independent, instead forces a three-way draw so that the election will be punted to the House of Representatives, where he ekes out a win. This part is perfectly legitimate under the quite unique American Political System (it's happened three times in real life), but after that his main rival, Governor Sam Evans, sues in Ohio, hoping to get their waiver of their sore-loser law that got Dalton on the ballot overturned under a lobbying law, thereby invalidating Dalton's win in Ohio and giving Evans the win. This idea ignores a fundamental fact about the electoral college: all the state popular vote does is suggest to the state's electors how the residents want them to vote, and all electoral college ballots are final once submitted. At most Evans might delegitimize Dalton's win and cause him political problems down the road, but he can't actually overturn the election once the electoral college and House have already voted.
  • In the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Context Is for Kings", protagonist Michael Burnham suspects Captain Lorca is developing biological weapons aboard Discovery and cites the Geneva Conventions' ban on them to him. There's a couple problems with this:
    • In real life, the Geneva Conventions actually don't outlaw bioweapons; those are covered by a different set of treaties (the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits their use but not their creation, while the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention outlaws them altogether). However, in addition to citing the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention as above, Burnham also cites a fictional 22nd century version of the Conventions under which these are apparently covered.
    • In the preceding episode, "Battle at the Binary Stars", Burnham and Captain Georgiou developed a plan that directly violated a different portion of the Geneva Conventions, namely Article 6 of 1980 Protocol II, mining an enemy corpse so that it would detonate when recovered, which made her statement to Lorca seem rather hypocritical to viewers versed in international law.


Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence Law, You Fail Law Forever