It’s almost impossible to imagine our lives without social media in some capacity. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we have grown to use social media as a form of entertainment, communication, news updates, and voicing our opinions.
However, social media is one of the fastest and most notorious ways of getting into trouble, especially if you are already facing litigation.
So many people don’t realize what they post online can haunt them for years to come.
Thinking twice before you post anything online is essential for many purposes, such as finding a job, but it is especially important while you are involved in a legal case.
For divorce, custody, criminal charges, or any other pending lawsuit, the opposing side will most definitely monitor your social media accounts and possibly use things you’ve posted against you.
While some stories you may have heard about social media may be amusing, such as the people who post status updates about looking for drugs and get a response from the police department.
However, these occurrences don’t happen often. What happens instead is the disparaging comments or threats made against ex-spouses, or flaunting of wealth when claiming otherwise, as well as uploading pictures of proof concerning criminal activity.
Once these posts have been made public, there is no going back.
Even if what you have posted will be used as evidence against you, deleting or changing your social media to cover up what you have posted may even be considered destruction of evidence–thus severely damaging your case.
Doing so won’t prevent the judge from seeing what you’ve posted, it will instead simply make you appear like you are attempting to hide or cover up important evidence. Therefore, we advise you to think twice before posting anything which may incriminate you in the future.
Can Social Media History Be Made Private?
Is social media being used against you in your case? The answer is that it very well may be. To most people’s dismay, social media history is not always private. In fact, always assume your social media accounts are not private. Even if you have them set to private, they are not.
Your account and history are still accessible. Most of what is available on social media does not require a subpoena, warrant, or court order to access. Even if the account is private, certain information might still be publicly accessible. For instance, the prosecution might use your posts, messages, and photos against you in court.
While state and local law enforcement agencies may require a search warrant to gain access to your computer, cell phone, or other electronic devices, federal agencies such as the FBI do not need warrants to see browser data. The Patriot Act allows the FBI to access this information without a warrant.
While many assume that anything they post on social media—especially if they have their account set to private—will be protected. But that is not the case. The bottom line is if the social media content is not accessible without a warrant, it can be made accessible with one. Therefore, it is never genuinely private and should be treated as such.
If you are worried your content will not remain private, and that negative consequences might result, you need to take affirmative action. If you think that your social media is being used against you in your case, contact our criminal defense lawyers immediately for advice and guidance.
The Stored Communications Act
The Stored Communication Act (SCA) was enacted in 1989, long before the existence of social media. Its purpose was to create some privacy protections similar to the Fourth Amendment for the newly emerging email and other digital communications stored online.
The SCA addresses the voluntary and compelled disclosure of stored electronic communications and transactional records held by third-party internet service providers. It created certain protections to ensure that the use of emails by law enforcement did not violate anyone’s constitutional rights.
However, over time the courts have narrowed SCA protections in some cases by applying the “third-party doctrine.” This doctrine states that a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy if they voluntarily provide the information to third parties.
Because this doctrine was created before social media and the modern-day internet, the question arises as to whether it is still relevant and viable today.
It is well-established law that the Fourth Amendment protects privacy beyond physical property interests. So the question then becomes, Where is the line drawn? A relatively recent Supreme Court case held that the government violated the Fourth Amendment by accessing cell phone location records without a search warrant. However, the courts have yet to explicitly address how a reasonable expectation of privacy relates to social media content. In the meantime, your social media posts may be used in your court case to your detriment.
How Can Our Attorneys Help?
If you are facing criminal charges and are worried your social media will be used against you in trial, it is wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Our attorneys can help you navigate your social media presence after an arrest, and they can advise you on the best social media practices for your everyday life. If there was ever a time to conduct yourself in a particular manner, it is when facing a criminal conviction.
Our team will explore all legal doctrines, case law, and applicable constitutional provisions to try and keep past social media activity from being used as evidence against you at trial.
While your case is active, the best thing to do is to eliminate your social media activity or, at the very least, significantly reduce it. Should you continue to post on social media, you must be extremely mindful about what you post. Our attorneys can guide you on the do’s and don’ts of social media activity while a criminal case is pending.
Reach out to our legal team, and we will review your rights and help ensure you do not post something to your detriment. Most importantly, we will work to find an overall solution to your case.
Contact Our Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and need a Denver criminal defense lawyer to advocate for your freedom, look no further than Gerash Steiner & Blanton, P.C.
We are dedicated to helping our clients see the light at the end of the tunnel as we work tirelessly to clear your name, and have your charged dropped or reduced.
Don’t hesitate to contact our offices by calling us at (303) 732-5048 today.