If a prosecutor charges you with a crime, they have the burden of proving that you are guilty. To do that, they must present compelling evidence that leaves little doubt in a judge’s or jury’s mind that you are linked to the offense. As such, investigators will thoroughly pursue material that can demonstrate your involvement in the alleged crime. Their search may include a detailed review of your social media accounts, looking for any posts you or others made that are relevant to the case. Provided that investigators follow proper procedures, anything they obtain from your social media accounts may be used as evidence against you. Thus, if you have been accused of a crime, refrain from using any online platforms for the duration of your case.
Attorney Tom Thomasian of The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. provides clients in Rhode Island with the legal guidance they need. Schedule a consultation with him by calling (401) 312-4385 or submitting an online contact form today.
Social Media and Information Gathering
Like millions of other Americans, you likely use social media to post pictures, comments, or videos; update your status; check-in; or message friends, family, and people within your community or worldwide. While platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are great ways of keeping up and in touch with others, if you have been charged with a crime, they’re also a great way to give investigators information they could use in your case.
Law enforcement officials increasingly scour social media profiles of people they are investigating. They’re looking for any clues that the individual has been involved in criminal activity. It’s possible that someone handling your case will read your posts to see what they can dig up on you.
And it’s not just your profiles investigators will be looking at. They may jump onto the socials of your connections to see whether there’s any information about you on their profiles.
Anything You Post Can Be Used Against You
If you’re familiar with the Miranda warning, you may know that one of the provisions states, “Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.” This applies not just to the things you directly tell police officers during an investigation but also to what you post online. Investigators can use your comments, photos, and other statements on social media to build a case against you. Even something as innocuous as checking in somewhere might be fodder for investigators, as it could highlight a discrepancy concerning where you were at the time of the alleged offense.
You might think that, because you’re innocent or had a small role in the alleged offense, it’s okay to post about your side of the story. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily so. Information you think absolves you of guilt may be seen by authorities as something that supports their suspicions.
Is it legal for law enforcement officials to go through your socials?
Generally, investigators can’t go through someone’s property without a warrant. However, that doesn’t always apply to searching social media because the expectation of privacy is decreased. When someone posts something on their profile, pretty much anyone can easily access it. So it’s not unlawful for officials to get information from your posts.
Suppose your privacy settings are adjusted to allow only certain people to view what you post. Even then, officers have ways to legally see your updates and comments. They can use a fake profile and request to follow or friend you. They might also reach out to your associates and have those individuals show them what you posted.
Investigators may also be able to access direct messages you send to others. Again, they can ask your connections to give them access to communications between you and that person. If that doesn’t work, they can request court orders to compel the social media platform to provide them with the information they’re seeking.
Remain Silent – Even on Social Media
The first line of the Miranda warning is “You have the right to remain silent.” As with the admonition about the things you say being used against you, this right is not limited to interactions with the police. You can remain silent through all stages of your case. It’s important to exercise this right, as it protects you from making any self-incriminating statements.
While your case is pending, refrain from posting on social media. This can prevent officers from gathering evidence that the prosecutor can use to build their arguments. Additionally, ask your connections not to tag you or post anything about you because investigators might also look at their profiles.
Speak with an Attorney
If you’re alleged to have been involved in a criminal matter, the decisions you make – even if they seem minor – can profoundly impact your case. A defense lawyer can advise you on actions to take or avoid.
To discuss your case and legal options in Rhode Island, contact The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. at (401) 312-4385.