What to know about social media and a criminal case

Social media can be used as evidence even if it has been deleted or is sent in a seemingly confidential manner.

Most Texas residents have some form of social media. According to BroadbandSearch.com, 7 in 10 Americans use at least one social media platform to connect with other people. In fact, 74% of Facebook users interact with the site on a daily basis. Because social media is so popular among people of all ages, it is not surprising that some of the content found on the sites can be used by either the defense or prosecution in a criminal law case.

Available as evidence

Most people realize that the legal system requires prosecutors and law enforcers to go through the proper channels to gather evidence. What people may not realize is that the information they share on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat could be used as evidence against them. In some cases, even private messages could become useful in a trial-like setting. A defendant could use private communication to support his or her innocence if the content is positive, but a prosecutor could use private messages shared by another civilian against the person charged with a crime if applicable.

Changes are noteworthy

When a person becomes involved in a criminal case as a defendant or plaintiff, his or her social media posts can become centerpieces of the trial. Because of this potential attention, how a person interacts with the platforms can be a telling part of the proceedings. For example, if a person accused of a violent crime deletes several status updates, the courts may question the motive for the removal of the information. Some people may try to argue that the accused was trying to hide evidence.

While completely deleting posts or accounts is not advisable, people can still make minor changes to their social media. For example, some attorneys may advise clients to create more stringent privacy settings to better protect themselves from being self-incriminating.

Confidentiality is nonexistent

Even if someone has a private Facebook page, much of the information posted can be used in a courtroom. Other civilians can share private messages and judges can request sign-in information to give all parties access to the personal musings found on social media platforms. Anything shared online, whether made as a public or private post, could find its way into the legal system. Because of this transparency, it is often a good idea to take a hiatus from posting on social media sites if a person is involved in a criminal case.

Before a Texas resident sends out a new social media post, it may be beneficial for him or her to consider the potential legal ramifications the status update could have. Whether social media has a big role in legal proceedings or not, it may be beneficial to work with a knowledgeable attorney for any type of criminal case.

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