If you wouldn’t show it to your mom, don’t post it on Facebook
We live in an era where people are comfortable sharing anything on Facebook and other social media platforms, from a picture of them drinking at a party last night (underage? No problem – your mom isn’t your Facebook friend, right?) to angry criticism of their girlfriend who just brought a restraining order against them. Some will even offer their opinion of the judge who is presiding over their case. Yet, what you post can get you in trouble with the law — and it can affect the outcome of your criminal defense case.
Here is what you need to know about how social media can affect your criminal defense case.
1. Your information is not private
Even if you believe you have strict privacy settings (which you should have) on your social media accounts, your posts may not be immune to scrutiny in and out of court. In fact, almost anything shared online can be subpoenaed and used as evidence against you.
Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of law enforcement agencies admit to using social media to find incriminating evidence. While it is against the law for officers to conduct a search without probable cause, that only applies to searches where you should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If officers can show that you presented your content to the public and did not use sufficient privacy settings (such as a privacy firewall), they can search it.
2. Even deleted posts can come back to haunt you
Deleted content can be retrieved. Plenty of people try to “clear up” their social media accounts after they are accused of a crime, yet forensic investigators know how to uncover those posts. It’s best to avoid having anything to clear up in the first place.
3. Something a friend posts about you can also affect your case
Think you’ve never posted anything bad? That’s great! Yet, what about your friends? If you catch your friends posting incriminating pictures, tweets or other content about you, confront them. Better yet, send this blog to your friends and tell them how important it is to be careful on Facebook — for everyone’s sake.
4. Judges, police officers and attorneys have feelings, too
It is more common than you would think for someone to post something about their case on Facebook — the positives and the negatives. Some will post bad comments about the judge, attorneys or officers involved in their case. Even in what is supposed to be an impartial criminal justice system, those posts can come back to haunt them.
Remember that you are working with people who will develop a personal opinion of you, and what you say and do in regards to your case matters.
What can you do?
The best rule of thumb is to simply avoid posting anything that could potentially incriminate you. This is true for everyone, everywhere. Never post something you wouldn’t want your mom to see. If you have been charged with a crime, consider shutting down your social media accounts for the duration of the case to avoid temptation and prevent your friends from commenting on the case.