If you’ve been charged with a crime, there are a number of crucial guidelines to keep in mind regarding social media. With direct messages and private chats, it can be easy to presume a level of privacy that does not exist on social media. Prosecutors are able to gain access to most of our communications, at most needing permission from the court for a search warrant or wiretap order. Keep reading to learn baseline social media safety precautions, and for more help with your case, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an Upper Peninsula criminal defense lawyer.
Social Media Postings Are Admissible in Court
As our world has become firmly planted in the digital age, courts have become skilled in using the technology that is integral to our daily lives. For instance, Michigan has standards, set by the state supreme court, for all of its trial courts’ websites and social media.
You need to keep in mind that your social media posts are admissible in court as evidence. Once something is posted, it can have an impact, even if you subsequently delete it. Law enforcement authorities have broad powers to investigate our online accounts, so be careful.
Guideline #1: Use the Highest Privacy Settings
A good first step is making sure the privacy settings on every device and social media app you use are set to the highest possible protection levels. In a similar vein, don’t accept any sudden friend requests while your case is ongoing. Someone may have made a fake profile to get information about you via your social circles.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, would also be useful if you can afford it. VPNs allow you to have a secure connection even if using an insecure method of communication like the public Internet.
Guideline #2: Do Not Post About on Social Media Your Case or Activities
Remember, there is no limitation on information shared via social media, whether public or “privately” posted. In light of this, you should not discuss your case in any way online. Don’t brag and don’t ask for advice.
If you feel you need to discuss your case with someone other than your lawyer, be sure you trust this person greatly. Only talk about your case with them in person, and emphasize to them that they should not share any details about your case with anyone, online or offline.
Apps like Snapchat or Instagram stories might seem private. After all, these apps delete your posts after some time. Once it’s deleted, no one can have access to the information again, right?
Wrong. The prosecution can still gain access to what you post, even if you delete it. A prosecutor can request your logins or request the information directly from the social media site itself. Password protection, in these circumstances, is a limited protection. It is not unusual at all for courts to allow law enforcement to demand you give them all your passwords. Not every prosecutor will go to these lengths, but legally they can, and some undoubtedly will.
Guideline #3: If You Already Posted Something, Don’t Delete It
If you have already posted something publicly, don’t run to delete your post. Deleting information from your social media regarding the activities in question could be interpreted by the court as tampering with evidence, and that in turn could lead to even more consequences, on top of whatever consequences you might be facing for the alleged activity.