These days, the odds are high that when you want information about someone, you turn to social media before you look anywhere else. So do the police.
For a while, the authorities had a reputation for being a bit behind the times – but that has changed. Roughly 70% of police investigations now include some form of intelligence gathering via social media. That corresponds with the fact that roughly 70% of all U.S. adults now use social media regularly.
Won’t your privacy settings protect you?
Absolutely not. You should never believe that what you post online cannot be seen by law enforcement.
First, even people you have as “friends” may make screenshots of your posts and pass them on to other people (or directly to the authorities). Second, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) makes it relatively easy for law enforcement to gain access to your posts and messages without your consent via warrants.
What if you’re already facing charges?
If you are under an investigative microscope (whether you’ve already been charged or not), do not delete your social media accounts without experienced legal guidance. That can be considered destruction of evidence, which can be weighted negatively against you in court – or even lead to additional charges.
Until you know what you can do, take the following steps for your own protection:
- Stop posting. Don’t put up family photos, memes, jokes or respond to other people’s posts.
- Increase your privacy settings and reduce your list of “friends” right away. If you don’t personally know someone, it’s time to eliminate them from your feed.
- Turn off all automatic check-ins, so that your movements cannot be tracked and announced to the authorities.
Finally, if you do decide to post something, ask yourself if you would find anything in that post uncomfortable to explain to a judge or jury. If the answer is, “Yes,” don’t post.
Facing a serious criminal charge can be terrifying. The right defense can help you get through the process with a minimum of damage.