Social media use is a big part of American daily life these days — but you don’t want anything you put online coming back to haunt you in court. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, have a criminal case pending or are still on probation, here are some of the things you should know about social media:
You can lock things down, but not delete them.
You’re generally free to change the privacy settings on your Facebook page or Instagram, and culling your list of “friends” is also wise — but sanitizing your pages or posting something and then removing it once you’re facing legal trouble could be construed as destroying evidence. A negative inference may also be made in court about your actions.
Anything online has the potential to make into a hearing.
If you want an example, consider the case of the teenager who got probation after killing four people while driving drunk. A video of him enjoying alcohol at a party sometime after sentencing found its way online — and his probation was promptly revoked. Ask your friends not to post pictures of you and not to tag you in their posts in order to better limit what’s directed your way.
The temptation can be too great.
Violent crimes seldom happen in a vacuum, and there are two sides to every story. You may feel like people would understand what happened better if you told your side. An impulsive online narrative about your case could really hurt you — especially if you say anything inaccurate or incriminating. Blowing off steam about the judge, the prosecutor or the alleged victim could also lead to new charges.
When you’ve been accused of a violent crime, it’s often best just to walk away from social media for a while. Find out more about the best way to protect your rights and preserve your case.