Facing Criminal Charges in Alabama? Watch What You Post on Social Media.
In today’s interconnected world, the line between public and private has become increasingly blurred. People use social media for all sorts of purposes. They post status updates about what they’re doing and thinking. They share photos of food and vacations. When you’re a defendant in a criminal case, however, it’s not always such a good idea to reveal information about yourself and your case to the world. If you’re facing charges in Birmingham, your first step should be to call an Alabama criminal defense attorney. Centrally located in Birmingham, our criminal defense lawyers can help you in numerous ways to protect your rights, future and reputation following a criminal charge.
What Can the Police Find on Your Social Media Accounts?
In 2016, Facebook reported 1.65 billion monthly users. Twitter has more than 140 million users. That’s a lot of people, and the number just keeps growing. In fact, 91 percent of adults online say they use social media daily. If you’re one of those people, you need to think carefully about what you post online during your criminal case.
Although the police usually need a search warrant to search your house or your phone, they don’t need a warrant to search things that are in plain view or that are available to the public. The Fourth Amendment gives all citizens a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, but there are numerous exceptions to this general rule.
Even when you think your profiles and accounts are set to private, or are only visible to friends, courts in several cases have ruled that so-called “private” accounts can be accessed with a warrant or a court order if they contain relevant evidence. In a recent case, a judge in New York ordered a woman to give the court access to her Facebook account in a custody dispute after her former husband alleged photos she had posted to her account proved she was not spending as much time with their child as she claimed.
Police and prosecutors have gotten very savvy about mining social media for evidence. In a 2013 survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 80 percent of departments surveyed said they had used social media evidence in their investigations.
Whether you realize it or not, you leave a trail of digital footprints every time you post something online. The police can access information like:
- Friend lists
The police may also be able to see if you are a member of certain groups or whether you will be attending an event. Furthermore, the police don’t need to “friend” you to see this information. In United States v. Meregildo, prosecutors “friended” a cooperating witness who happened to be Facebook friends with the suspect. The court ruled there was no Fourth Amendment violation because the suspect’s profile settings allowed his friends to view his information.
When in Doubt, Don’t Post!
The easiest way to stop police and prosecutors from getting access to potentially incriminating information from your social media accounts is to avoid posting anything about your case online, whether on social media or through email. Although you may be tempted to share details about your case with friends online, remember that nothing that goes on the internet is ever truly private. When in doubt, don’t share and don’t post.
Birmingham Criminal Defense
If you have been arrested in Birmingham, you need the advice and support of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Everything you do can potentially impact your case. We can help you make smart decisions about your defense. We serve clients in locations throughout Birmingham, Jefferson and Shelby Counties and indeed throughout the great State of Alabama.