Individuals who have been arrested and charged with federal crimes – as well as those who are under investigation but have not yet been formally charged with wrongdoing – need to be extremely careful when posting on social media. Even the most seemingly innocuous content can be misinterpreted or twisted in ways that could compromise the strength of an individual’s defense strategy.
As it is now well understood that investigators and prosecutors regularly scroll social media accounts in search of evidence, a defendant’s safest approach is to avoid social media altogether until their criminal matter is fully resolved. However, if that is not a realistic or feasible choice, it’s important to take extreme care when posting anything.
Act like you’re being watched
If you’re being investigated or have already been charged with criminal wrongdoing by the federal government, assume that everything you post on social media – in addition to everything you type in an email, browse in a search engine and send in a text – is being viewed by an investigator and/or prosecutor. While it’s likely that you’re not being watched this closely, it’s a good rule of thumb because everything that you write or post electronically could possibly find its way into the government’s “hands.”
This is, perhaps, especially true on social media because social media platforms are broadly available for use by the public. Whereas government actors generally need a warrant to read someone’s emails or texts, they can simply find ways to bypass someone’s privacy settings on social media in order to access their activity.
Social media is a great way to stay connected and seek support during tough times. Unfortunately, if you’re facing legal challenges, it is going to be better for you to meet with people face-to-face than it will be to communicate with them via social media.