The intersection of criminal defense and social media is potentially much more consequential than many defendants realize. The use of social media by criminal defendants can have significant repercussions on their cases. As a result, trying to mount a successful criminal defense and using social media before a case is fully resolved are not scenarios that tend to mix well.
Ultimately, because law enforcement officers and prosecutors are likely to monitor a defendant’s public social media account activity for evidence, anything that someone who has been accused of wrongdoing “says” on social media can potentially be used against them. In this way, using social media before a case has concluded can seriously jeopardize an individual’s attempt to avoid a conviction.
Why stay off social media?
One of the most significant risks for criminal defendants who use social media while their case remains pending is the potential for self-incrimination. Posts, comments, photos or even “shares” can be perceived as admissions of guilt, serve as evidence to undermine their character or contradict statements made by the defendant previously. All of these challenges can compromise the strength of a defendant’s case accordingly.
Additionally, given how easy it is to conduct online research, it’s not uncommon for jury members to look up defendants on social media. Posts that portray a negative image, even if unrelated to the case in question, can bias jurors against a defendant. While judges instruct the jury to not engage in research or review social media, the humanity behind the situation is that potential jurors may defy that instruction.
Given how much is at stake, it’s generally wise for criminal defendants to limit or suspend their social media use until their case is fully resolved. When even a truly innocent online interaction can inspire serious legal consequences, it’s time to back away from one’s social media accounts.