Social media rears its ugly head yet again, and this time it is in the courtroom. A word of advice to all clients: Your social media websites can and will be used against you in a court of law!
Facebook pages have often been used in court to show the character of an individual or reveal some sort of intent behind their commission of a crime. However, as technology becomes more advanced and communication becomes more effortless, free-flowing, and constant, the use of emojis/emoticons, photos, and wall postings can come back to haunt people in more devastating ways then we are used to.
Not only can employers look at one’s tweets, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and other accounts when making hiring decisions, but a judge and jury can, too. If a defendant is claiming emotional distress, isolation, loss of enjoyment, or any other “happiness-related” claim, a jury is well within its bounds to hear evidence from one’s Facebook page indicating that hundreds of people wished that defendant a happy birthday, or that the defendant regularly uses smiley faces and speaks fondly of his or her friends. Photos revealing the defendant out with friends, having a good time, or anything contradicting his or her claim will be used to show that the claim is bogus.
The most important thing to start with is recognition of this fact at the earliest possible stage. The best way to avoid these sites being used against you, is to delete your accounts as soon as you are aware of your involvement in a criminal proceeding.
If deactivation seems drastic, many social media accounts make accessible their privacy settings, allowing users to dictate who can see the page, write on it, tag them in photos, etc. Upgrading one’s page to the most sophisticated levels of privacy is a good start, but that still does not cover the fact that we have no power over what others post about us. Even a post referencing the defendant can be used to show that he is not as injured as he claimed to be.
Bottom line: it’s never too early to begin screening everything you put on the internet. Un-tag yourself from photos, do not talk about legal matters online, and avoid updating a status where it may have an adverse effect on your case.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, or their professional license is at risk, contact Attorney Miranda McCroskey for an immediate consultation at (833) 865-6253 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.