Can my social media be used against me?

As a defense attorney in Boulder, social media comes up more than you might think. One of the first things I tell my clients - regardless of whether they are charged with DUI, domestic violence, drugs or something else - is to make their social media accounts private, or better yet, remove anything that might reflect poorly on them. Or just get rid of your account altogether. Usually the next thing they ask me is "but my social media is private, the DA can't use that against me right?" There is a belief that since you created your social media account (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and you control it and it is password-protected, that the things you post are private. However, that is not the case. As social media has become a part of our daily lives, it has played a larger role in legal cases. There have already been a number of court decisions regarding the expectation of privacy on social media, but this area of law is till evolving.

All the DA has to do is google a person's name, find their Facebook page, and snoop around to see what is private and what is public. Every defense attorney I know has some pretty incredible stories of the things they found through social media, and here are just a few examples of cases I've seen: an underage person is charged with possession of alcohol and marijuana, and right there on their Facebook page is pictures of them chugging a beer and smoking weed. And the photo was posted after they had been charged. Another example was a person who was charged with stealing a car and posted a photo of themselves standing next to it. Ooops. Not all social media is bad for criminal defendants, however. I've also had cases people who were witnesses against my client had posted racist and threatening images online, which helped to pressure the DA into giving us a better deal.

And social media affects more than just criminal cases. You can imagine how people might use social media in a divorce or child custody case. The best advice is: don't post anything (photos, comments, news stories, etc.) that you wouldn't want splashed across the news papers (or that you wouldn't want the police, prosecutor, and judge seeing). Make sure your accounts are private (only your friends or contacts can see them) and check your privacy settings often.


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