Criminal Defense Attorney Explains How Social Media Can Be a Double-Edged Sword in a Criminal Case

March 28, 2024
March 28, 2024 Defense Attorneys

Over the past decade, social media platforms have become a common means for communication. A place where people share news, opinions, and personal moments. However, when legal issues arise, particularly criminal charges, the content you’ve shared or interacted with on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can become a double-edged sword. Our criminal defense attorney explains why below.

Law Enforcement and Social Media

It’s a common misconception that what we post on social media is private. Even when set to share with friends or in personal DMs, there is always a chance of a hack or data leak. The reality is quite the contrary. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are now routinely scouring social media for evidence. A seemingly innocent photo, comment, or even a location check-in can be misconstrued or used against you in a criminal case.

For instance, consider a DUI charge. Photos or videos of you drinking at a bar or party hours before your arrest can severely undermine your defense, even if you were not over the legal limit when those posts were made. Similarly, in cases involving restraining orders or allegations of harassment, a simple direct message can be interpreted as a violation of court orders.

Criminal Defense Attorney: Right to Privacy vs. The Right to Evidence

Thinking about how law enforcement and investigators are looking into your social media profiles might make you uncomfortable. You might wonder, doesn’t this infringe on my right to privacy? The balance between privacy rights and the pursuit of evidence is delicate. Courts have generally followed a rule of thumb that law enforcement can use any information made public on social media platforms without violating constitutional rights. Read more about social media contents and the law on the American Bar Association website. This means that privacy settings are very important. But note, messages or photos shared with “friends only” or in private messages may still be accessed through legal channels, such as search warrants or subpoenas.

Social Media Tips for Those Facing Criminal Chargescriminal-defense-attorney-hand-on-laptop-with-social-media-reaction-chat-bubbles-floating-in-air-above-laptop

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, it’s important to reconsider your social media habits. Some recommendations from our criminal defense attorneys are below:

  • Go Silent: The best advice is to stop posting. This includes comments, likes, and shares. Even posts unrelated to your case can be misinterpreted.
  • Privacy Settings: Review your privacy settings. Update them accordingly to limit information/posts shared. However, remember that this does not make your content inadmissible during legal investigations.
  • Review Past Posts: Take stock of your existing online presence. Consult with your lawyer about whether you should delete anything. Note that deleting content after charges have been filed can sometimes be viewed as tampering with evidence so never make changes without consulting your criminal defense attorney.
  • Beware of Friends: Even if you’re cautious, friends or followers might post content related to you or your case. Be aware of this and consider limiting your online social circles.
  • Direct Messages: Assume that nothing you send in a private message is truly private. Avoid discussing your case or anything related to it in direct messages.

Partner with Your Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s important to trust your criminal defense attorney with the details of your case and any social media activity. As a general best practice for any case, having less information about you online, the more control you and your defense team have over the narrative of your case. In today’s world, a cautious approach to social media is not just important – it’s a necessary component of a strong defense strategy. Talk with our criminal defense team today on the details of your case!

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