I agree with you framing it that way.
What sets it apart in America is that by the nature of our founding principles, we are supposed to be, and historically have been, far more suspicious of government than most other nations and societies. The presumption of innocence is one of our core tenets, and consequently, when we hear that "the law" is after somebody (even if there's really little doubt the person did what they're suspected of doing), there's an elemental question of just who the good guys and bad guys are. Moreover, the American concept of rugged individualism impels us to often root for the one man standing alone against the bigger machine, at times regardless of who is actually right or wrong. Sometimes the underdog struggle takes on a morality all its own.
Our fiction romanticizes the Dukes of Hazzard, and our history and its cinematic retelling tint the deeds of Billy the Kid, Butch and Sundance, etc. Despite the brutality of the Godfather films, people tend to find at least a modicum of sympathy and a twisted sense of honor in the fictional Corleone family. During OJ's famous low speed chase, there were legions of well-wishers along the roadside.
I'm not saying that we're a worse people because of this, not in the least (although I agree with you that personal morality and restraint have been surrendered in lieu of laws and regulations). I am saying that historically, back to our founding as a nation, the typical American has been far more suspicious of government and consequently, there is something of a knee jerk willingness in many of us to automatically root for the individual against the government, even when on a very conscious level, we know the individual has done wrong.