If you are facing criminal charges, caution is the best course to follow in all areas of your life. You never quite know what you say to others may come back to hurt your criminal defense. Even worse may be information that you put out into the public realm for everyone to see. Social media may give a prosecutor the ammunition that they need to convict you of the charges. Here are several ways that your posts could be used against you.
Posts Can Contradict or Undercut an Alibi
The most obvious thing that you must worry about is that your posts could be used to undercut your alibi. Having a credible alibi that is backed up by evidence is perhaps the best thing that you have going for you in your defense. All it takes is one post to undo your defense. For example, if you said that you were in a certain place at a certain time, your social media could show otherwise if you posted around the time that an incident was alleged to have happened. Facebook makes it very easy to “check in” at a certain location, which can be used as evidence in court. Even your friends’ posts could cause you problems if they have a picture that shows you were in a different place than you claim.
Photographs Can Help Prosecutors Corroborate Evidence
Social media photographs can also be used to corroborate certain facts that could be used to convict you. For example, the alleged victim may say that the suspect was wearing a certain piece of clothing or had a tattoo in a certain place. All prosecutors need to do is look at your Facebook or Instagram to confirm whether that is the case. They may be able to view years’ worth of pictures that give them a better idea of what they can verify. In some cases, prosecutors can even gain insight into your state of mind based on what you have posted.
What Others Say Can Implicate You
You may not even have posted anything yourself, but social media could still be an issue in your defense. Your friends could end up unwittingly posting something that could give prosecutors evidence that they can use against you. People may comment on your posts with information that may show that you were somewhere at a certain time or had knowledge of events that happened. Others’ comments or posts take on even more importance in a conspiracy case when prosecutors are trying to prove the existence of an agreement to commit a crime.
Prosecutors Can Track Your Activity While the Case Is Pending
Social media could also impact your legal situation while your case is pending. You may be subject to restrictions based on the terms of your bail. Your movement may be restricted, or you could be ordered to avoid certain places. Posting on social media would give law enforcement an idea of your whereabouts and activities, and it could lead to bail being revoked.
Once you have been charged with a crime or learn that you are being investigated, you must handle social media delicately. If you delete your account, you may appear guilty in the eyes of the law. Even deleting certain posts may not help your case. Old Twitter posts are still available, even when they have been deleted. Even when posts are set to private and are not visible to the general public, you can assume that prosecutors have the tools to access them. Subpoena power is a very strong tool in any prosecutor’s arsenal. If they can show that social media information is relevant to their case, courts will give them the power that they need to access this information.
In addition, messages that you send to others through social media may also be discoverable. In some cases, law enforcement has been able to get their hands on WhatsApp messages that people thought were encrypted. The federal Stored Communications Act gives law enforcement the ability to obtain certain communications pursuant to a valid subpoena. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 to 2710.
Factors for You to Consider About Your Social Media Usage
From your perspective, law enforcement’s sweeping ability to access social media posts and messages should mean the following:
- Be careful about communications over social media at any time.
- Never assume that you have privacy in any social media account.
- If you post it on social media, always assume that the government can see it.
- Be careful about deleting anything because it can give the impression of guilt.
- If you are planning on doing anything with your social media account (including deleting posts), always check with your attorney first.
- If you are facing criminal charges, silence is always the best course of action.
- Do not ever speak about your case on your own or say anything without the explicit advice of your attorney.
The longer you are unrepresented by an attorney, the more likely you are to make a mistake that makes the prosecutor’s life easier in trying to convict you. You may not even realize the ramifications of your actions and how they can complicate your criminal defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to recognize the implications of what you do. Therefore, it is vital to consult with a lawyer early in your case.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime or learn that you are being investigated, the experienced attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff are here to help you. We will see your case as a whole and explain considerations that you may not have previously realized were part of your case. At the same time, we will work to help you present your best defense. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. We are reachable when you need us, and we make helping you immediately a priority.