The show follows a crime, usually adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points. The first half of the show concentrates on the investigation of the crime by the police, the second half follows the prosecution of the crime in court.

Det. Lennie Briscoe: I specifically asked for him to be put on suicide watch. Apparently here at Riker's that mean that they watch you commit suicide.
[Opening narration]
Narrator: In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Boy, I'd hate for somebody to trace me by what I read.
Det. Rey Curtis: You read, Lennie?
Jack McCoy: I remember how hard it was when I realized my father was a son of a bitch. I can't imagine what it must be like when you realize you raised one.
[Trying to keep a suspect from escaping through a window]
Det. Ed Green: Rock, paper, scissors, gun.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Even though you are a taxpayer, you know, we don't actually work for you personally.
Det. Ed Green: If you're going to lie, be creative or we'll get bored.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I'm trying to decide what to arrest you for - obstruction of justice, harboring a fugitive or just being a general pain in the ass!
[Rifling through 30-year old evidence]
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I got one word for you, Rey - plastics.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Love - a dangerous disease instantly cured by marriage.
Jack McCoy: Never get Freudian on a man holding a pickle.
Emil Skoda: That's just a load of rehearsed crap.
[a victim has died, apparently during S&M sex]
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: No defensive wounds.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: That's odd.
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Yeah, the fun part for these guys is the struggle AFTER they've been tied up.
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Or so I've heard.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: It wasn't the eighteen floors from the window to the street that killed her, it was the sudden stop.
Jack McCoy: [waiter brings a drink bought by the defense attorney in the last case] Take it back.
ADA Claire Kincaid: You can't forgive anyone, can you?
Jack McCoy: Nope. Besides, that was bourbon; I'm drinking scotch.
Danielle Melnick: Hello, Jack. Ok, let's talk turkey. What are you up to?... And don't give me that party line about Prusse being a threat to society.
Jack McCoy: When you argue, I have this compulsive need to argue back.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Just like the Bates Hotel. They check in but they never check out.
Jack McCoy: You played me, you son of a bitch!
Det. Ed Green: [a suspect, who'd complained of radiating pain in his neck, tries to escape from his apartment; Green goes to apprehend him] That's good, now radiate your ass up against the wall!
Jack McCoy: Your grief might seem a little more real had you not just admitted you cut off your wife's head.
Det. Rey Curtis: When I filled out my ethnicity, I had to put "Other"...
Det. Lennie Briscoe: You know, if I didn't already know you don't have kids, I'd know you don't have kids.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: I'd like it if you two became real partners.
Detective Lennie Briscoe: And I'd like it if my ex-wives got partners. No more alimony.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: If he's not Fallon, who the hell is he?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Well the FBI says he's not in the witness protection program but they mighta had their fingers crossed.
Detective Lennie Briscoe: We had a deal, you son of a bitch!
Adam Schiff: You do what you have to do, you're still welcome to my scotch.
[phone rings, Rodgers answers]
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Rodgers.
[pause; she hands the phone to Green]
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Your lieutenant.
[Green looks at the receiver but won't touch it]
Det. Ed Green: What's that on the receiver? Brains?
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Egg salad, maybe.
Det. Ed Green: You got another phone?
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: I got another body coming in. Guy took a javelin to the chest.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Why are you still in this line of work?
Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers: Free javelins.
[the driver of a Jaguar has been shot; a carjacking is suspected]
Det. Ed Green: Just give up the car! Man, when are people gonna realize it isn't worth your life?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Spoken like somebody who's never owned a Jag.
[handcuffing a suspect]
Det. Lennie Briscoe: You've heard of the Seven Rings of Saturn? These are the Two Rings of Riker's.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I want to go to law school so I can learn how to turn gold into lead.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: I'd better go. I'm late for my daily spanking at One Police Plaza.
Ben Stone: I'm a Catholic - I can feel guilty about anything.
[about gay marriage]
Jack McCoy: Let 'em marry. Why shouldn't they be as miserable as the rest of us?
Ben Stone: Although justice must be tempered with mercy, it must still maintain a sense of retribution.
Adam Schiff: A motive pulled straight from the tabloids. And what about means and opportunity? Are you getting that from comic books?
Adam Schiff: A first-year law student could punch more holes in your case than Con Ed has in Third Avenue.
Ben Stone: The jury should look like society. People that represent the victim as well as the defendant
Det. Rey Curtis: You're a Catholic.
Jack McCoy: Not at work. Sorry.
Jack McCoy: Sometimes you have to make deals with the devil.
Jamie Ross: Just make sure you don't get your eyebrows singed.
EADA Jack McCoy: You can re-write the law when you're appointed to the Supreme Court.
D.A. Arthur Branch: God willing.
Danielle Melnick: Julian Prusse is accused of a crime but that doesn't make him Hannibal Lecter.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: Do you believe him?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I believe on a good day he couldn't hit his ass with both hands.
A.D.A. Paul Robinette: Could be he's lucky.
Capt. Donald Cragen: Could be next week I'll be doing shampoo commercials.
[watching Van Buren and Fontana tear into each other]
Det. Ed Green: Look, we can sit here and argue politics all day long, but there's still gonna be a dead girl in the morgue.
Arraignment judge: Life is beautiful. All God's children are innocent.
Ben Stone: I'm not the one on trial here, and I'm the one who asks the questions!
Ben Stone: Unless the victim qualifies for sainthood, we shouldn't prosecute? Lyndon Johnson tried governing by opinion polls... It didn't work.
D.A. Arthur Branch: Sometimes the good you do won't do you any good.
Det. Mike Logan: Interviewing suspect: When is your birthday?
Suspect: March 20.
Det. Mike Logan: What year?
Suspect: Every year. I have a birthday every year!
Adam Schiff: I wouldn't count your chickens. Your omelet just hit the fan.
[looking at a hospital sign that says "Pediatric Oncology"]
Det. Lennie Briscoe: Now there's two words that should never go together.
Adam Schiff: People see the devil as an allegory.
ADA Jack McCoy: I'm not so sure I do.
Abbie Carmichael: Horns and a pitchfork, Jack?
Capt. Donald Cragen: What'd he say?
Det. Mike Logan: He told us to go to hell
Capt. Donald Cragen: Well, at least he's got a way with words.
Jack McCoy: The last time I checked, "Stupid" isn't a defense for murder!
[upon learning that an old gangster had himself killed to frame his cheating young wife and her boyfriend]
DA Branch: Well, I guess it beats dousing yourself in rum and lighting up a Cohiba.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I told you, you should have gone to bed with her. You're getting the grief without getting the gravy.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: [in disgust to Det. Ed Green] Ed, I sold my plantation over a century ago.
Adam Schiff: Always think you have a smoking gun, till the smoke blows in your face.
Jack McCoy: You son of a bitch! You played me!
ADA Serena Southerlyn: So, her sex life is way better than mine, so what?
[looking at a murder victim]
Det. Ed Green: Bare foot, cross painted on her chest. Looks like we're dealing with some religious nut.
Adam Schiff: Flipped a coin in my head. Came up tails. Talk to the boy.
Abbie Carmichael: Gentleman, if we can just lower the amount of testosterone...
Abbie Carmichael: Ugh. Doctors. I can't believe my mother wanted me to marry one.
Det. Lennie Briscoe: We got a hit on the fake fur.
Det. Rey Curtis: Yeah, you'll never guess what they make them out of.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: Recycled soda bottles. What else did you find out?
ADA Jack McCoy: Sometimes Lennie Briscoe doesn't hit it out of the park.
ADA Jack McCoy: If that's the way you feel, Danielle, move to suppress.
Danielle Melnick: Right. Judge Logan's gonna rule FISA violates the Fourth Amendment. How many beers have *you* had?
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I don't like to be second guessed!
[referring to Ed Green]
Det. Lennie Briscoe: I've been walking on eggshells the whole time he's been here!
Det. Mike Logan: [to a girl who's being unhelphul] Listen... Somebody blew your boyfriend's brains out with a 48, okay?
ADA Jack McCoy: There comes a time in everyone's political career when you have to expect a couple over easy in the kisser.

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