Social media platforms are a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, learn about current events, and discover groups of people with similar interests. However, if you are facing criminal charges, you may not realize how your use of social media can negatively impact the outcome of your criminal case.
Even seemingly innocent social media posts, messages, and activities can be incriminating. You must tread carefully on social media or, better yet, avoid it altogether. In this blog post, our criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A., discusses how the use of social media may harm your criminal defense case in Florida.
As the prosecution prepares for your trial, they will gather any evidence against you they can find — including your social media records. It's not a matter of if the prosecution will gain access to your social media activity, but when they will gain access.
Anything you post to social media can harm your case. Even if you believe what you have posted is innocent, or you post something that you think is unrelated to the case, the prosecution can twist these posts to incriminate you.
Here are a few examples of posts that could harm your defense case:
Many people believe if they set their social media profiles to "private," the prosecution cannot access their activity. However, this isn't always true.
In most cases, the prosecution can gain access to any private information that may be relevant to the case. As a result, if the prosecution believes that your social media activity could affect the case, it can obtain your private social media records as evidence.
Nothing on your social media accounts is off-limits to the prosecution. As a result, they can and will access your private messages with other social media users. Anything you say in these messages can become evidence used against you.
For example, if you messaged another user to discuss your case, they could obtain these messages as evidence. Overall, it's best not to respond to any messages from friends or acquaintances leading up to your trial.
The prosecution can also access your social media activity, including which posts you have "liked" and responded to — even if these posts do not appear on your social media profile. Even "liking" a funny meme that has any connection to your charges or your case could incriminate you. Again, you can assume that they can and will obtain your complete social media records during their preparation for your case.
If you have previously posted an image or text post that could paint you in a bad light, you may be tempted to delete it. However, deleting your posts won't make them inaccessible to the prosecution. They will likely be able to obtain all your past social media activity, including posts you have deleted from your profile. It can also access previous versions of edited posts.
Deleting potentially incriminating posts could harm your criminal defense case more than keeping them on your profile. When the court sees that you have deleted a post, it may assume that you know the post is incriminating or that you are trying to hide the information in the post.
If you have previously made a post that you believe could harm your case, your criminal defense lawyer can advise you about the best way to handle it.
There are steps you can take if you're charged with a crime and worry that your social media accounts could be used against you. Even though law enforcement may require social media platforms to provide access to certain restricted information via a warrant, subpoena, or other court order, set your social media privacy settings to the highest level of privacy. Do not make it easy for them. Don't accept friend requests from strangers and remove your tag even if a friend's post doesn't contain explicit content that could negatively impact your case. Investigators can locate witnesses using tagged photos. Make their work challenging.
Stop posting. Right now, you should avoid using any social media. It's not a good idea to discuss your case online. Additionally, only communicate with your lawyer. Do not discuss your case online in any way or even with people you trust. Tell friends not to share any pictures or comments about you or your case. Finally, talk to your criminal defense lawyer about your social media usage, and do not hide any embarrassing posts or images. You don't want your lawyer to learn anything from the prosecution that could jeopardize your case.
At the Law Offices of R. David Williams P.A., we offer personalized criminal defense focused on your unique needs. We can help you understand which actions to avoid when it comes to social media leading up to your case and how to improve your case outcome.
If you need a criminal defense attorney, we will provide individualized criminal defense without judgment. Contact our team today at (954) 522-9997, or fill out our online form, to schedule a free consultation.
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