Why criminal suspects need to be careful on social media

Social media has the potential to make life a lot more difficult for criminal defendants since posts can give insight into behavior and frame of mind.

Social media is great in many ways, connecting Virginia residents to friends and loved ones all over the world. It also allows people to keep on top of news and trends. However, social media does mean a loosening of privacy, and this can be trouble for some criminal suspects or defendants.

Contradictory statements

Take a crime such as DUI. At any time, many people have the potential to be charged with DUI, more so than with a crime such as, say, murder. Moreover, the consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe. However, sometimes all it takes for police or prosecutors to complete a DUI case is a social media post. Consider the following examples:

  • A suspect posting a picture of himself holding a can of beer an hour before the arrest
  • A defendant posting, “I’m drunk!” to Facebook minutes before getting behind the wheel
  • A suspect with a clear pattern of drinking alcohol and driving, something he has denied doing

Such posts can undermine a defense because many defendants claim they did not realize they were drunk or that they never drink and drive. These posts can make defendants appear callous and uncaring too, never good when it comes to sentencing.

Post-arrest gaffes

And then there are situations in which suspects or defendants behave unprofessionally on social media after an arrest. For example, they might lambast the arresting officer and perhaps even make veiled threats. None of that goes over well in court.

Also, back to DUI, a defendant who is shown drinking and possibly driving after a DUI arrest might come across as someone who does not take the charge seriously.

All types of crimes

Social media has the potential to affect all types of crimes. A parole violation could be proved by a social media photo showing the person in question out of an allowable region or doing a prohibited activity. Weapons offenses can also get even more problematic if there are social media photos showing the user carelessly or illegally handling weapons.

Work preventatively

The best way to handle the issue of social media is to use it wisely, no matter what. After all, no one expects to get charged with a crime that night. Users should avoid posting anything that could end up remotely incriminating. They should also understand that limiting their posts to “friends only” is not a cure. A friend could screenshot a post, for example, and send it to authorities. Deleting a post could also possibly lead to evidence tampering allegations.

Any type of criminal charge in Virginia has the potential to be serious. An attorney can help advocate for suspects throughout the process.