Needless to say, social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with family, friends and peers. Uploading a photo of your puppy on Instagram or firing off a tweet expressing a political opinion has become almost second nature, but could that have a potentially devastating effect on your legal affairs?
In recent years, social media has become crucial evidence for criminal litigation, and for good reason—it can provide photographs, direct communications, locations and timestamps. Information gathered on social media was key in the arrest of an 18-year old San Bernardino woman, who confessed to murdering her ex-boyfriend on Facebook, as well as in the capture of Ethan Couch, the “affluenza teen” who was caught violating his 10-year probation on a video uploaded to Twitter.
Even without a warrant, government agencies can collect troves of information from your social media accounts; LinkedIn shows your work history, Instagram keeps a photo catalog of your friends and family and Facebook has everything in between. If the government does get a warrant, they can potentially view deleted posts and collect IP data. That’s a pretty scary thought.
How Using Social Media During a Criminal Case Can Hurt You
During a criminal case, DO NOT post anything closely related to your case on social media. Better yet, if the charges are serious enough, avoid social media entirely. Not sure how your social media posts can be used against you? Here are a few ways how:
- Incriminating evidence: Everything you post may be used as incriminating evidence against an alibi or to undermine statements you made during the investigation. Even something in the background of a seemingly innocent picture uploaded on Instagram can potentially be entered as evidence by the prosecution.
- Admission of guilt: A joke or sarcastic comment may be seen as an “admittance of guilt” by the prosecution. A comment completely unrelated to your case can even be used against you. While nothing may come of it, it’s better to just avoid unnecessary strain.
- Lack of remorse: It’s absolutely normal to be upset about a criminal case, but that doesn’t mean you should fire off expletive-laden posts on social media without expecting consequences. Screenshots of your posts may be used as proof that you “lack remorse,” even if you delete your comments minutes after posting.
- Potential witnesses and accomplices: Police and prosecutors may look through your social media for potential witnesses and accomplices.
- Evidence for unrelated crimes: While police may be looking for certain evidence, they may stumble upon other information that links you to an unrelated crime.
Social media activity may cause problems for a defendant, so it’s vital that you either stay away or be especially cautious with what you post. While the beauty of social media is the ability to connect with people around the world, it can also complicate delicate legal matters. When all eyes are on you, some may not be looking out for your best interest, so act accordingly.Our Weston criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Kevin F. Moot can provide help with a social media strategy during your case. Together we can come up with a plan that best suits your needs. Contact us today!