Many people have far too narrow of a perspective when it comes to the impact of social media on criminal charges. People may think of crimes that happened on social media, such as cyberbullying or stalking. However, the crime does not have to be digital in nature for someone to get into trouble over it on social media.
For example, the rise in certain social media platforms, like Snapchat, created an incentive for some individuals to brag about dangerous or illegal behavior. Young adults have even made the very questionable decision to live stream crimes, like drunk driving, on social media.
Those are actually less common issues than general use of social media for people facing criminal charges. Just about anything you do on social media before and during criminal proceedings can directly impact the outcome in court. In other words, you need to be very careful about your social media use once you’ve gotten arrested.
The stuff you share online demonstrates character and behavior
Do you post memes about sloppy drunks or shared jokes that make light of alcohol-related crimes? Do you follow a lot of pages that talk about drug culture or reference movies focused on drug culture on social media?
If so, prosecutors could use the things you share online to convince a judge or a jury that your personality or standard behavior makes you more likely to commit the offense that they charged you with. Things you shared out of tongue-in-cheek humor, for example, could make you look like a dangerous or unstable person.
It is very hard for people who don’t know you to interpret your tone or intention in social media posts. Even talking about your pending charges and claiming innocence could provide fodder for savvy prosecutors or law enforcement.
Minimize your social media footprint when facing charges
Your best option to avoid issues arising from social media use in your criminal defense is to reduce, limit or even totally eliminate your use of social media. Not only should you avoid posting questionable memes and comments now, but you should also go back through your history and delete or make private anything that could hurt your criminal case.
Also, you might want to consider adjusting your privacy settings to strictly limit who can access your posts and comments. The more people who have access to what you share, the more likely it is that what you share could wind up in the hands of law enforcement. Even things you share in private messages could become screen captures that can implicate you later in court.
Erring on the side of caution with what you share and whom you share it with is your best option when facing charges.