The last thing on your mind if you face criminal charges in Texas is the possibility that your social media presence will be used against you. However, your posts, including comments, images, and videos, can be used in court as evidence. In this blog post, criminal defense attorney Jason English from Jason S. English Law, PLLC in Austin, Texas, discusses how the use of social media may complicate your criminal defense case.
Social Media is Admissible Evidence
Anyone, including law enforcement, can access content that users post without setting audience restrictions on social media platforms without a court order. User preference or platform policies may restrict who can access certain information people post on social media. However, law enforcement can request access to certain restricted information from social media platforms through a warrant, subpoena, or other court order which they can use against you.
Social Media Postings Can Harm Your Defense
Although it is your criminal defense attorney's responsibility to defend you in court, this can become difficult if you or your friends have made certain types of posts on your social media accounts. Some examples include:
- Threats to another person in texts or instant messaging
- Images or statements that go against an alibi
- Anything that could cast doubt on claims you made during the investigation at a different time
- Information regarding your whereabouts and activities before, during, and after an alleged crime
- Comments by friends that could be interpreted in the wrong way
Everything you write can be examined in light of your current situation. Remember that the prosecution would love to turn anything you post into evidence against you.
Social Media and Deleting Existing Posts
You might not be protected if you delete specific posts or your entire social media account. Investigators could interpret deleted posts as an effort to erase evidence, which would be detrimental to your defense or expose you to criminal liability for tampering with evidence. Consult a skilled criminal defense attorney before deleting your social media accounts or any potentially incriminating images or posts. Otherwise, you risk losing your case if you delete your photos, posts, or account without legal counsel.
Social Media and Attorney-Client Privilege
The only person it is safe to speak with about your criminal case is your criminal defense attorney due to attorney-client privilege. Any written or verbal confidential communications (including emails) between you and your attorney made to request or receive legal advice are protected by the privilege from being made public. No matter how tempting, do not discuss your case with family or friends, as anything you say to them can be used against you at trial.
Social Media and Your Criminal Defense Case
Investigators and prosecutors can look through your social media accounts for incriminating posts. They can also find posts and photos where you have been tagged. Even if you didn't post anything incriminating before your criminal charge or arrest, investigators could use your posts to determine where you were and to create a timeline of events leading to your arrest or criminal charge. For example, if you were at a friend's house where drugs were being used and later made a post about it, this could be used against you.
When you hire your criminal lawyer, it is essential that you tell them about your social media presence and whether you have made any posts that might jeopardize your case. This is no time to hold back disclosure of any embarrassing comments or images. You must be completely honest and open with your lawyer to combat any evidence that the prosecution might try to use against you based on information discovered on social media. In court, your attorney should never be caught off guard and always be well-prepared for any evidence the prosecution may present.
Social Media and Steps You Can Take
You can take steps if you're charged with a crime and worry that your social media accounts could be used against you. First, don't accept friend requests from strangers and set your social media privacy settings to the highest level of privacy. Remove your tag even if a friend's photo doesn't contain explicit content or drug use. Investigators can locate witnesses using tagged photos. Make their work challenging.
Stop posting after that. 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 via email or text. You can no longer control an email or text once it has been sent. Do not discuss your case in writing or with people you trust. Ask your friends to avoid posting images or comments about you or your case.
Contact Jason S. English Law, PLLC for Your Criminal Defense in Austin, Texas
If you have been charged with a crime and are searching online for a “criminal defense attorney near me,” look no further than the experienced team at Jason S. English Law, PLLC. With over 15 years as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney Jason English's experience on the other side of the aisle will help him anticipate what the prosecution in your case may plan.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient's state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.