Can Social Media Impact Your Case?
If you are involved in litigation or a criminal investigation as a plaintiff, defendant, witness, victim, or even as a juror, beware that your social media contributions are likely being monitored. If you are a civil or criminal defendant, the prosecutors or opposing party are certainly monitoring your social media activity. They may do this for any number of reasons. One reason may be to ensure that you abide by a court order. For example, you may be ordered by the court to not contact a certain person and tagging them in something on Twitter or directly messaging them on Instagram will violate that order. Alternatively, law enforcement may monitor your social media to look for evidence of wrongdoing. If your accounts are public they are not barred from obtaining the evidence; whereas, there may be some restrictions if your account is private or if law enforcement is attempting to obtain your private messages. However, if a third party, such as your friend or ex-girlfriend, shows the officer your messages or private account you may not have any recourse.
Moreover, social media may be used to gather evidence of your veracity or tendency to tell the truth and vice versa. If you told police that you do not know a person or suspect, yet you have pictures with the person on your Facebook page, that fact may be brought up later in court to prove that you are dishonest. Alternatively, your pictures, posts, or status updates may be used to prove that you were in a certain place at a certain time.
Also, it is extremely ill advised to discuss pending charges or a pending lawsuit on your social media platforms. If you have questionable posts or something on your social media that you believe will harm your case, speak with an attorney before deleting it. Depending on the circumstances, deleting the evidence could land you in even more trouble.
Lastly, do not think for one second that deleting something from your account means it is gone forever. The image or post may be stored on a platform’s backup server or someone could have already saved or downloaded the content. Therefore, be careful about what you post and always consider the possibility of the prosecutor or opposing party getting their hands on it.