Social media in court

How Social Media Can Affect Your Case

There are over 2 billion Facebook users alone, and that’s not even counting all the users on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Sharing our thoughts, photos, locations, and even personal information via social media has become fairly commonplace. And, while it definitely has its upsides, there are a lot of ways social media can be a bad thing.

In law, it can be the difference between winning a case and losing or the difference between being convicted and being proclaimed innocent. Unfortunately, not many people realize how much social media can impact a court case, leading them to engage in activities that can end up harming them down the road.

The best way to protect yourself is by understanding how social media can be used against you in court. Armed with this information, and the help of the North Carolina criminal defense lawyers at Mulligan Attorneys, you can protect your privacy when it matters most.

Can Social Media Be Used in Court?

When you sign up for social media, you’re typically presented with a number of privacy settings. Though it’s implied that privacy settings allow you to choose who sees your posts and who doesn’t, that’s not always true. In the context of a court case, there actually isn’t a huge difference between public and private posts, or how they can be used against you.

The truth is, both public and “private” information shared on social media can be used as evidence in court under different circumstances:

Public Social Media Posts as Evidence

Any social media posts that are available to the general public can be used as evidence by law enforcement or lawyers. Even if you’re not the one who publishes the post, it can be used against you. For example, a friend could take a photo of you and post it publicly, without your permission or knowledge. If this photo is incriminating or relates to your case in some way, it could be used as evidence. The same goes for messages, posts, and location tags.

Private Social Media Posts as Evidence

The word “private” doesn’t mean much when it comes to the internet. It’s not at all uncommon for social media sites to cooperate with law enforcement when it comes to handing over your “private” information. Police often don’t even need a warrant or subpoena to obtain it. They merely need to prove that accessing your “private” social media info is relevant to your case.

Social Media Evidence Types

Posting on social media seems so innocent until you consider all the ways law enforcement can leverage that information against you. What follows is a list of the most common types of social media posts and how exactly they can be used against you.

Photos

A photo of someone doing something they shouldn’t is fairly solid evidence. For example, if someone is involved in a personal injury claim, but is posting photos of themselves working out at the gym, that’s not going to look good in court. 

Location Check-Ins

If you say you were in one place at a certain time, but a location check-in shows that you were actually tagged as being somewhere else, it could create problems in court. Law enforcement could use this information to place you at the scene of a crime or at a bar before being arrested for DWI, for example.

Posts

Text posts may be the most incriminating of all. You may think that social media is a safe place to vent but even “private” posts can be dug up. That’s why you should always be extremely careful about what you say or who you talk about, regardless of what your legal situation is. It’s incredibly easy to twist someone’s words after the fact, so what may seem like an offhand comment or remark could end up being interpreted as a threat.

Social media can hurt your caseThough there are other types of social media posts, the above are those that are most commonly used during trials. Additionally, these posts can not only be used as evidence in court, they can be used to:

  • Identify suspects
  • Find witnesses
  • Reveal incriminating statements
  • Demonstrate intent
  • Confirm/dispute alibis
  • Reveal connections between individuals

What You Shouldn’t Do on Social Media After an Arrest

If you are involved in a court case, you can rest assured that your social profiles will be intensely scrutinized. For that reason, it is best to avoid using any form of social media at all, starting the moment your case begins. If you do decide to use social media during your trial, keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind:

DON’T delete anything.

This probably goes without saying, but suddenly deleting all your accounts will be interpreted as suspicious. You could even be accused of tampering with evidence, and the same goes for deleting pictures, posts, or comments. It’s largely wasted effort to attempt to delete these things anyway, since nothing that’s been “deleted” from the internet is ever truly gone. Law enforcement has the resources needed to work with social media companies and restore deleted content.

DON’T post anything about your case.

While, as we said, it’s best to avoid social media altogether, if you post something, make sure it has nothing to do with your case. It’s one thing to wish your uncle a happy birthday, but it’s another to start discussing the details of your case in a public forum.

DON’T let your emotions get the best of you.

Even if you are just browsing social media, you may see comments from people you know or news stories regarding your case. While it’s perfectly understandable that these things may make you feel hurt, upset, or angry, retaliating publicly is the worst thing you can do. It’s best to save your thoughts and feelings about your case for a discussion with a North Carolina criminal defense attorney.

DON’T let anyone take pictures of you.

Even if you think they may not be posted on social media, if you’re in the midst of a court case, it’s best to avoid being photographed at all. Even a photo that seems innocent can be used to hurt you. For example, if you are involved in a workers compensation case for a leg injury, a photo of you walking into the store can be used to argue that you’re not actually injured at all.

DON’T accept new friend requests.

Remember, your privacy settings don’t mean much. Don’t accept new friends or connections, don’t allow yourself to be tagged in photos, and don’t reply to messages from people you don’t know.

It doesn’t matter how big your case is; from simple traffic violations to child custody cases, social media can be a dangerous place. If you’ve been accused of a crime or are involved in any kind of court proceeding, a North Carolina lawyer can help you take the steps needed to protect yourself, your family, and your privacy. For a free consultation, contact Mulligan Attorneys online or give us a call at 910-763-1100.