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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

Why social media should be avoided while being investigated

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2020 | criminal defense

While you may have spent your life trying to stay on the right side of the law, now you find yourself as the subject of a criminal case. You’re familiar with the fact that law enforcement will be gathering evidence about you. It can feel overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. And as you await a verdict, it can be common to want to let off steam. But one very important thing to keep in mind is to be careful of how you conduct yourself, notably on social media.

Social media allows users to access a mass audience for little to no cost. And this venue of self-expression can feel like a godsend when it feels like life is close to falling apart. You’ll post a status and receive some sort of affirmation from people, whether it be in likes or comments. And you might think you’re safe to post whatever you want on social media, but that is not the case.

How social media can make a criminal case that much worse

A vast majority of people use social media. So, if law enforcement wanted to keep tabs on someone, it’s one of the easier ways. While there is conversation as to the legality of this form of mass surveillance, a report from Freedom On The Net states that nine in ten internet users are currently being monitored for their activity. So, it’s important to avoid making the following posts:

  • Status updates: You might even try to post a status that doesn’t give too much away about the case or your involvement. Still, it might just be enough to get yourself implicated. Especially if a future development in a case means that a status update does not age well. Just don’t post.
  • Photos: As the adage goes, pictures are worth 1,000 words, and some like to post them liberally. If a previous photo puts you near the scene of a crime, or maybe at a bar the night you got a DUI, there is plenty of room to stack evidence against you.
  • Direct messages: While these are not public, a law enforcement official is just a warrant away from accessing your direct messages. So even if you aren’t publicly posting anything, it could still get you in trouble.

What if I delete photos or bump up my privacy settings?

DO NOT delete any photos on your own. North Carolina law is a little tricky, in that while current statute of “burying evidence” doesn’t reach out to digital realms yet. However, basic obstruction of justice prohibits any act that prevents justice. Privacy settings are mostly useful so that you don’t get messages from people you don’t know. There are still ways for an officer to see what you’ve sent to other people. It’s always good to have privacy settings in place, but it certainly won’t make a huge difference.

It is advisable to be very careful of what you post on social media. Even if you do not think you are implicating yourself in anything by talking about the facts of the case or how you feel emotionally about the proceedings, that DOES NOT mean that investigators will not find a way to implicate you.

As you can see, while social media can be a fun and expressive tool, during a criminal investigation it is really for the better if you abstain from it. If you have questions about the best protocols to abide by while involved in a criminal investigation, reaching out a legal professional could be a great step forward.