Social Media and Your Criminal Case
October 28th, 2022
Social media has become a part of everyday life. We use sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, Instagram, and others to keep up with friends and family, network with business contacts, generate income, and share our lives. These platforms provide us with a megaphone we can use to share our thoughts and lives with a broad audience.
If you have been charged with a crime, you might be tempted to turn to social media to proclaim your innocence, ask friends for advice, or provide updates about your case. But before you post on social media, you must understand the potential ramifications of your actions.
Using Social Media as Evidence in Court
Social media sites rose to prominence in the 1990s. Today, they are used by billions of people around the world. While it’s great to be able to click a button and broadcast your thoughts to a broad audience, one side effect of using social media is that people tend to share more than they should and more than they might share in person. This is especially problematic if you are facing criminal charges, because your social media posts can be used against you in court. And if you try to take them down, you could be accused of tampering with evidence.
Many social media users think they are protected, either because they are only sharing information with friends or because they use social media sites where their messages “disappear” after a certain amount of time.
But when it comes to using social media posts as evidence in court, your old social media posts can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
With so much of our lives being conducted online, prosecutors routinely ask for social media account information. They can seek the records directly from the social media company, request that the judge order you to turn over your login credentials, or subpoena information from your account.
Judges today have little hesitation in granting these requests. The thinking goes that this is information you shared publicly online with a large audience, so it is fair game to be accessed by prosecutors and potentially used in court.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal expectation of privacy in social media posts. If you share incriminating information—even in a supposedly private chat—it can be used as evidence to convict you in court.
Do Not Discuss Your Criminal Case Online
As a general rule, you should avoid discussing anything about your criminal case with anyone except your attorney. This is especially true online.
If you need to discuss something personal that could affect your case, it is best to do it privately, in person, and only with people you trust.
You should also tell your friends and family not to discuss your case with anyone and not to post about it online.
Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts and set them to the highest possible levels.
If you were engaged in potentially illegal activity, be careful about accepting new requests. Law enforcement officers and others can create fake profiles to become part of your online circle and use information you share against you in court.
Do Not Delete Old Social Media Posts
If you have already posted about your criminal case, you may be tempted to delete these old posts. Unfortunately, this could lead to additional criminal charges for tampering with evidence.
Don’t expect encryption technology or password protection to save you, either. Courts commonly grant prosecutor’s requests that criminal defendants turn over their passwords.
Protect Yourself Online
Your life doesn’t stop when you have been charged with a crime, and you may need to access social media accounts and other information online. Do your best to limit time online and be selective about what you post and who you interact with.
If possible, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to provide additional protection and prevent snooping and interference by the government.
And be careful where you click. Avoid risky websites that can give hackers access to your online accounts.
Just Criminal Law: Protecting Your One Shot at Justice
If you are under investigation or have been charged with a crime and have questions about your social media activities, Just Criminal Law can help. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.
Our lawyers are former prosecutors, and we know how the government will try to gain your trust, access your social media life, and use it against you in court. When you work with us, we will protect your rights and mount an aggressive defense against the criminal charges.
To learn more about how we can help, contact us today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.
Categories: Criminal Charges - General Questions