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Can Your Social Media Accounts be Used in a Criminal Case?

"What you say can and will be used against you…even if you said it online." That is not necessarily how the law reads, but it should. According to an attorney quoted by Forbes, social media is evidence and it is discoverable. So, what does that mean for your criminal case? It means you should refrain from posting anything while your case is pending and, if you already posted something damning, to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Social Media Posts are Not Illegally Obtained Evidence

Many people use social media as their own private online journals. Unfortunately, what many of those people fail to realize is that social media is far from private. It is in fact very public, and as such, what people post to it can be obtained and used as evidence in a court of law. This is true even for private messages and pictures shared by others. If it is in the online space, it is no longer considered private information and is therefore admissible as evidence in a court of law.

Deleting Your Social Media Posts and Messages can do More Harm Than Good

That said, should you log into your social media accounts immediately after receiving a criminal charge and start erasing damning evidence? Absolutely not. When you are involved in a criminal case, whether as a defendant or a plaintiff, the same rules of evidence that apply to other forms of evidence also apply to your social media content. This means that just as you could be found guilty of interference for destroying, tampering with, or spoiling, say, drugs in a drug possession case, so too could you be found guilty of the same for deleting public posts or private messages.

Aside from possibly tampering with criminal evidence, it is not a good idea to delete social media posts for the simple fact that you cannot really get rid of them. If the prosecution wants to find a past post, all he or she has to do is contact the platform provider to recover deleted content. More tech savvy lawyers may not have to contact the provider at all, as new-gen forensic technology is now available for recovery purposes.

How the Prosecution can Use Your Social Media Posts Against You

So, what if the prosecution discovers an image of you drinking with friends or a thread of messages in which you vent your hatred for your ex-girlfriend? It is normal for people to have a good time or to be angry at an ex, right? While those things are normal, they can be incriminating in certain cases. For instance, if you are on trial for DUI manslaughter, the photo may prove you did, in fact, consume alcohol before the accident. If you are on trial for assaulting your ex-girlfriend, your rants may serve as motive.

Those are just two examples of how the prosecution can use your social media posts against you in court. The state may find several ways to use your social media content as evidence, which is why it is best to refrain from all social media activity while your trial is pending.

At Boettcher, Devinney, Ingle & Wicker, our criminal defense attorneys are prepared to defend you against criminal charges in a court of law. We are also prepared to advise you on what and what not to do while your case is pending. For the aggressive and knowledgeable representation you need, contact our law firm today.

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