Social media platforms have become an integral part of many people’s daily lives. However, for criminal defendants, engaging in careless or inappropriate behavior on social media can result in severe consequences.
Social media posts can shape public opinion and influence how people perceive a criminal defendant. When facing criminal charges, defendants should be aware that their online presence and activities can be scrutinized by the media, law enforcement, prosecutors and potential jurors. Posting content that portrays themselves in a negative light or contradicts their defense strategy can harm their case and potentially reinforce negative biases.
Legal and personal consequences
In some cases, defendants may be subject to court orders or conditions of bail that restrict their online activity. Engaging in prohibited behavior on social media, such as discussing the case, intimidating witnesses or contacting victims, can result in violations of these court orders.
This not only undermines a defendant’s credibility but can also lead to additional legal consequences, such as fines, revoked bail or even imprisonment. A poorly advised social media post can also:
- Affect admissible evidence: Social media posts, comments, photos and videos can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. Prosecutors and investigators often scour social media platforms for any information that may be relevant to a case. A seemingly innocent post or photo can be misinterpreted or taken out of context and used against a defendant. Remember: anything posted online can potentially be used as evidence in court.
- Have an impact on sentencing: Social media activity can also affect the outcome of sentencing. Judges may consider a defendant’s behavior on social media when determining the appropriate sentence. For example, if a defendant convicted of a violent crime is seen glorifying or advocating for violence on social media, it may lead to a harsher sentence. Similarly, demonstrating a lack of remorse or irresponsibility through online posts can negatively influence the court’s perception of someone’s character and impact sentencing decisions.
Seeking legal guidance regarding the appropriate use of social media during legal proceedings can help defendants protect their rights and interests.