Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become an essential part of our daily lives. From sharing pictures and photos of your adventures to staying updated with current events, our world has never been more connected than ever before.
Unfortunately, your social media activity can be used against you when facing criminal charges. Any statements you made or photos/videos you post online can help law enforcement determine your exact whereabouts when the crime occurred, who you were with, what your actions were leading up to the crime, and how the crime was premeditated.
For example, let’s say you update your status to tell the world how badly you want to hurt a certain individual. The following day, the person you mentioned suffered a serious injury from an assault. Police and prosecutors can use that specific post against you to imply the act of violence against the victim was premeditated.
Although your information may be private based on your customized privacy settings, police can still access your social media accounts through various means. One of the most common ways is to directly request cooperation in the criminal investigation against you from the social media platform itself. Another way is by access the social media accounts of your close acquaintances, preferably those with less restrictive privacy settings.
It is important to understand that you shouldn’t delete any information during a criminal investigation. If you attempt to delete any information from your social media accounts or delete them entirely, you can either be found in contempt of court or formally charged with destruction of evidence.
If you are currently under investigation for a criminal offense, there are several steps to take to safeguard yourself from your social media activity:
- Stay away until your case is resolved – As we mentioned before, deleting your accounts entirely can have a negative impact on your case. Instead, just avoid using social media altogether until your case is over. If you have the urge to discuss the details of your case, rather than posting a status update or message your friends, talk to your lawyer instead.
- Tell your friends to stop tagging you – From photos to check-ins, geotags can be used to disclose your whereabouts at any given time. If your friends have a tendency to tag you in every picture or place you visit, politely ask them to stop until the conclusion of your case.
- Contact a lawyer – If there is potentially incriminating evidence online, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately. A lawyer can anticipate the impact social media evidence might have on criminal charges and protect your rights.