There is no doubt that we are living in an age of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and other apps are now a regular part of our daily lives. The traditional letter and phone call are now being replaced by texting and video calls. Messages that in the past may have taken hours, days, or weeks to send are now instant. We have certainly come a long way.
Courts have always had a responsibility to keep up with the times. As technologies change, so does the interpretation of much of criminal law. For example, over the past two decades courts have had to redefine criminal harassment as new communication technologies emerge.
What are some other social media questions and issues in criminal law? How could they affect you?
Can social media be evidence of a crime?
One issue with new social media technologies is evidence. Courts are responsible for deciding which pieces of evidence to accept. They have traditionally considered different factors:
Let’s look now at how each of these raises questions about using social media as evidence.
Verifying identities on social media accounts can be difficult. People often make accounts that can be accessed by others. They also may create an account that does not match who they are in real life. How does the court verify an account?
How reliable is a social media post? Many photos and posts can be edited or altered either before or after they are put out. There may not necessarily be an accessible record on changes made either.
Judges also must look at how social media posts may impact jurors. Jurors are the people who decide many criminal cases. Will a juror be biased by a post allowed as evidence? Jurors have a responsibility to be unbiased. Instructions may help, but will they totally stop bias from this kind of evidence?
Are social media posts relevant? In other words, are the things people put out accurate reflections of what they are thinking or doing? People often joke around on social media, sometimes in ways that are inappropriate. Courts must decide how much these types of post reflect the character of a defendant or witness.
Can I get in trouble for what I post?
It is no secret that sometimes people get into trouble for what they post on their social media accounts. Sexual conduct, drugs, alcohol, or money may lead to investigations or in some cases criminal charges. Many careers and reputations have been harmed or ruined by social media mistakes.
Posts may even involve judges or jurors. Just this month the New York Post reported that a judge in Kentucky has been accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with her staffers. These allegations came to light after the judge tried seducing one of her colleagues on Snapchat. She now faces serious disciplinary charges that could put an early end to her career.
The point of talking about social media and the law is not to scare you into not using social media. Social media is a fun way of connecting with friends and keeping up with the world. You can still use it, but try to use it responsibly. Think about the long-term consequences of a post before you hit send.
What do I do if I get in trouble for posting something?
Because of how new social media is courts are still interpreting how posts factor into criminal law. This means that it will take a creative and tech-savvy lawyer to best defend you if you are charged with a crime based on social media activity.
Believe it or not there are criminal defenses to these allegations. For example, a person could be coerced or forced into putting something up on social media. There may also be something to your benefit in the terms of service, or the rules of each social media site that you usually check “I agree” to before you start using the platform.
It is best that you contact your lawyer for advice on which defense is best for your case.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT A SOCIAL MEDIA POST AND CRIMINAL LAW, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.