Technical analyst Penelope Garcia narrows down suspects and clues with her self-made supercharged computer database. Garcia's program draws from seemingly every database in the world, but information warrants don’t seem to be a problem in the show’s universe.
Penelope Garcia isn't the only genius hacker on the series, as the team encounters a surprisingly high number of unsubs with advanced hacker skills. Criminals have even been able to break into the entire FBI database and crash a commercial flight.
Cognitive interviews are a very real tool used by law enforcement professionals, but they almost work like magic on the show. Interviewees will suddenly have perfect recall of an event, while real-life interviews consist of nothing more than gently jogging their memory.
While no one wants to see the characters at their desks filing paperwork, the bulk of real-life crime-solving looks a lot more like Dilbert than Sherlock Holmes. In real life, the FBI analyst position is basically a desk job, and while we do see Hotchner reading reports, we never see them being written.
In the real world, getting hired at the BAU means loads of bureaucracy and red tape, but on "Criminal Minds," it seems that anyone can land a job. Garcia is threatened with prosecution if she doesn’t join, Tara Lewis joins an investigation mid-interview, and Reid has been with the FBI since he was 20.
Rossi brings unmatched experience and instinct to the BAU, but it’s unlikely that the FBI would send someone well into their retirement years into raids. Rossi is still in his early 50s when he joins, but he manages to slip past the FBI's real-world mandatory retirement age of 57.
While warrants are often mentioned, the need for them is often waved away with a comment about probable cause or the PATRIOT Act. Elle Greenaway and Hotchner have both killed suspects, but neither faced any legal repercussions.
For a show that's meant to focus on psychology, "Criminal Minds" frequently misses an opportunity to promote mental health awareness and work toward destigmatizing mental disorders. Basically, if it exists, the series manages to twist it into a depraved manifestation.
Garcia and Morgan flirt back and forth constantly as a gesture of friendship that serves to lighten the mood, and fans are split on whether it’s cringey or delightful. However, it's hard to believe that Garcia's comments would pass in any professional environment, especially the FBI.
Of all the questionable things we're forced to overlook, Jason Alexander's appearance as a deranged professor in the episode “Masterpiece” is one of the strangest. With a long, silvery wig, Alexander delivers a performance that could best be described as "heavily overacted."
In real life, serial killers are often apprehended while doing pretty mundane activities, like committing traffic violations. However, a key part of the “Criminal Minds” formula is saving the victim in the nick of time, no matter how unrealistic.
It's hard to believe that anyone would stay working for the FBI if it meant their safety and the safety of those they love was constantly at risk. Reid is kidnapped and tortured, Garcia is shot, and Hotch’s wife is killed, but their commitment to the BAU is stronger than ever.
Most of the show’s cases involve traveling via the BAU's private jet, and they seem to have bottomless resources to fund these flights. According to a producer, this is a "point of contention" for the team's real-world counterparts, who always fly coach.
The BAU team frequently storms active crime scenes alongside SWAT teams, often leading them. However, real BAU analysts never conduct raids or storm crime scenes, instead leaving this work to local police.