Social Media and How it Can Hurt Your Case

Social media could harm your case and here are a few examples of how that is possible.

Usually when getting engaged / married, the expectation is that you will be together forever. However, sometimes this is not the case for a variety of reasons. You may decide not to go through with the marriage or, once married, you may decide to divorce. Now, if you have posted on social media that you planned on giving or did give the engagement ring on a “special holiday”, then the other party can use this against you in court and you would not be able to recover that engagement ring. In a divorce case, if the marriage has been over and you have moved on with another person before officially being divorced and you posted it on social media, then it could greatly harm the outcome of your divorce case. Further, if you are involved in a personal injury case and you post something to the effect of “I’m going to get every penny out of (that person or company)” then this could make it seem like you do not have an actual legitimate personal injury even though you may have made the statement because you were upset about your injury and the lack of cooperation from whomever injured you.

The last example is how law enforcement could use your social media post against you in court. If you are arrested for a DUI and you have posted pictures of you out drinking the night you were arrested on your social media or you posted anything about the fact that you were drinking that night, then the police can use that information against you. These are but a few of the many examples of how posting on social media could potentially harm your case.

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon that has radically changed how we communicate and share information with one another. So what is social media? Social media is digital technology such as websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and develop social and professional contacts. Current popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Since the turn of the 21st century, Internet use has become commonplace and social media is becoming the new norm in terms of communication and networking. In fact, there is an entire generation of Americans today that cannot remember a time without computers and the Internet. This is a time when people post every detail about their lives on social media. Moreover, 79% of all Internet users or 68% of all U.S. adults use Facebook and 76% of Facebook users check in at least once a day. Additionally, the majority of online users (56%) use multiple social media sites. While the most active age group on social media is 18-29; those Americans over the age of 29 are increasingly using social media websites as well. Social media seems to have infiltrated the lives of Americans and is here to stay.

The laws regarding social media and the use of social media information by the police and in court cases are slowly evolving to keep up with the pace of technology. All posts on social media are not protected by the Fourth Amendment and the police can access and use anything you post on social media against you. This includes any written postings and any pictures you publish on social media. Actually, the police do create fake accounts that they use to gain information from individuals social media accounts. In addition, the police can obtain permission from people that you have allowed to view your social media accounts (such as friends or followers) to gain access to your posts and pictures.

The Fourth Amendment is one of the strongest protections of individual privacy in the United States. It says that U.S. citizens have the right against unreasonable search and seizure of their persons, papers, home or property by the government and that all government agents (including law enforcement) have a warrant to search any of these things. The warrant must be specific to the person or place to be searched and as for what is being searched.

The courts use several doctrines to analyze whether the government has committed a fourth amendment violation including trespass theory, reasonable expectation of privacy, and the third party doctrine. Trespass theory is just that the government physically trespassed, typically on a citizen’s property. Reasonable expectation of privacy doctrine requires that first, the individual had a subjective expectation of privacy and second, that society has an objective reasonable expectation of privacy. Unfortunately, law enforcement does not physically trespass when collecting social media data and courts have ruled that society does not have an objective reasonable expectation of privacy on social media.

Furthermore, the courts are allowing information obtained from social media sites to be introduced into evidence in both criminal and civil cases. This means if you say anything incriminating on social media, there is a good chance that it will be used against you in any court proceedings. For example, if you are involved in a divorce and your ex-spouse has the ability to access your social media accounts, then they can use anything you have posted against you during your divorce case.

While social media can have many positive purposes such as keeping in touch with friends or networking, it can also be very harmful to your interests. It may be in your best interest to either abstain from using or temporarily terminate your social media accounts if you are involved in any lawsuits. Remember anything posted on the Internet is permanent even if it is later removed. Use your best judgment when posting anything online and consult your attorney when necessary. Contact Fred for a free initial consultation and for further advice regarding social media and your case by calling 410 730 4404.