Social media is all around us these days. Most Americans regularly use social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These are very popular sites where people like to share photos, videos, status updates, and news with their family members and friends, and for the most part, they are fun and harmless. When you are involved in a legal case, however, social media activity can be very dangerous.
People have a tendency to share way too much information with their family and friends on social media. They freely give their opinions, talk about how they are feeling, share pictures of vacations or memorable events in their lives, and tell their network about important things that happen to them.
This being a habit for many, it is understandable that those who frequently use social media would want to inform their family and friends if they got injured in a car wreck, they are getting a divorce, or if they got pulled over for drunk driving. But this can be a major mistake for many reasons.
Social Media can Produce Highly Damaging Information
Let’s say you got hurt in an auto accident and one of the first things you do after you get home is post some photos of the accident scene with comments criticizing the other driver who caused the accident, but also reassuring your family and friends that you will be okay. You file a claim for damages for your injuries, and as the case goes on, you feel increasingly depressed because of not being able to work and the physical pain you are experiencing.
To help lift your spirits, you and your family decide to take a vacation to a place where you can relax and hopefully get some relief from your pain. Then you post photos of the trip showing you and your loved ones laughing and enjoying yourselves while having drinks at a poolside.
This might all seem like normal behavior, and it is. But the problem is that if the other side gets a hold of these posts, they can twist them around to damage your case.
For example, an optimistic person would naturally want to reassure their loved ones that their injuries are not really that bad and that they will be okay. However, this type of comment might be used by the other side to say that your injuries are not as bad as you say they are. And if you claim emotional distress, photos of an enjoyable vacation will not be helpful with this assertion either.
Comments, images, and videos that are posted during a divorce or criminal proceeding can also be used against you. For example, derogatory comments about your spouse could negatively reflect on your character, or posts of you drinking alcohol excessively could undermine your DUI defense. Everything you put out on social media is discoverable by the other side and admissible in a court of law, which is why it is best to do as little as possible electronically if you are involved in a legal case.
Once you Post Something, it is There for Good
It is important to understand that when you do something online, it cannot be undone. You can try to delete some post that you think might be damaging, but this could backfire as well. What you posted may have been saved by someone before you deleted it, and deleted information can also be retrieved when the information is requested by authorities. When a deleted post is uncovered, the other side can use that as proof that you tried to get rid of it, which could be seen as an attempt to destroy evidence.
Your Privacy Settings Might Not Save You
You might think that the warnings about social media use during a legal case do not apply to you because you use strict privacy settings. But this is not something you should feel very secure about.
First of all, social media companies routinely change their privacy policies, and you might find out after it is too late that your information was not as private as you thought. Furthermore, prosecutors and defense attorneys have investigative teams that are very good at uncovering social media information, and they know a lot of tech savvy tricks to accomplish their goal.
The bottom line is that someone with the resources, know-how, and motivation can usually get a hold of another person’s social media posts if they want to. For this reason, it is very unwise to count on your privacy settings to save you.
Your Legal Case and Social Media
If you are involved in any type of legal proceeding, the best practice by far is to unplug from social media until your case is over. This way, you will not accidentally do something that could harm your case. If you cannot totally quit social media, at the very least limit your activity to just browsing other people’s posts, and ask your family and friends not to tag you in any photos that they put up. Finally, always listen to the advice of your attorney with regards to social media postings and all other activities you should or should not do while your legal case is ongoing.