Charged With a Crime? Go Silent on Social.

Charged With a Crime? Go Silent on Social.

Anything you say at the police station or in the police car can and will be used against you in a court of law.

So will anything you say on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Instagram, on YouTube, or on TikTok. Law enforcement officers are watching. So are prosecutors.

In fact, even before you are charged with a crime, police might have done their best to get at your social media accounts. Some courts have backed the rights of the police to make fake accounts to friend you so they can just read your information.

Police officers have long had the ability to misrepresent themselves in the course of an investigation, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope that the courts will see online conduct as any different than in-person conduct in this regard.

If they can’t do that, they’ll just subpoena the information from the social providers. Many of these sites are more than willing to hand over the information, sometimes even without the court order. There have been exceptions—in 2011 Twitter notified its users of a US Department of Justice Court order to turn over information related to WikiLeaks. Yet you can’t really count on this being the case.

Here in 2020, almost all social media sites are cooperating with law enforcement. Twitter handed over data related to the George Floyd protests. TikTok is known for handing over a wealth of data as well.

You may be thinking: okay. I’m not an idiot. I’m not exactly going to jump on Facebook and say, “I did it. I totally committed that crime.”

True. But you may be giving away more than you think. Prosecutors have used data from social media to:

  • Prove you were at or near a specific location at a specific date and time.
  • Prove you are associated with known criminals.
  • Prove you are associated with witnesses or defendants.
  • Develop a theory of motive.
  • Twist your words against you if you talk about the case in any way.

Of course, your defense attorney can do the same thing. Sometimes social media backs an alibi too…and that’s a great reason to let your defense attorney look at your social media accounts after you’ve been arrested.

Yet the last thing you want to do is give the prosecution more rope to hang you with. We highly recommend you be cognizant of the accounts you have, particularly while your case is pending. Even if you are sensible about what you post, your family and friends may not be, and what they say might be used against you too.

As a side note, you shouldn’t talk to your family and friends about the case either. At most, you can say: “I’m innocent. My lawyer and I are working on it.” Family members and friends can be brought up on the stand and things you say to them can be used against you later.

Think there might be something on a social account that could incriminate you, something police may have already seen? Be sure to notify your defense attorney right away. We will take every step we can to minimize the damage as much as possible.

See also:


Understanding Discovery Reform in New York


What You Need to Know About Your 5th Amendment Rights


What Happens if You Confess to a Crime You Didn’t Commit