A major danger in posting on social media accounts is that the posting constitutes a written record. Unlike an oral action, where the case revolves around the credibility of each person, written records are generally deemed to be credible evidence.
According to the Baltimore Sun, police in Anne Arundel County are investigating threats that were made on their Facebook page. While the police department wouldn’t give more information about the threats, a spokesperson said that most of the posts on the site are protected by free speech. The incident does raise the question though: What social media posts can result in the filing of criminal charges?
Computer crimes encompass many types of activities, such as identity theft, theft of data and intellectual property, and crimes involving illegal access. Crimes that relate to general posting on the Internet (including on your social media accounts or the accounts of anyone else) include:
- Child pornography
- Luring children into illegal sexual acts
- Revenge pornography
- Harassment, stalking, and cyberbullying
- Criminal libel
- Domestic abuse
One of the laws that targets computer postings in Maryland is Gracie’s Law. That law was passed In October 2013, and was recently amended to provide for harsher penalties. The law is named after Grace McComas, a 15-year old, who killed herself in response to online bullies. The law imposed a $500 fine and a prison sentence of a year. The new law increases the prison sentence to three years, the fine to $10,000 and if the “target is pushed to suicide,” the sentence can be ten years. Furthermore, proving a pattern of bullying is no longer required, which means a person charged for the first time may face these penalties, too.
How social media posting may affect your case
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you should really stop posting online altogether. However, if you refuse to stop using social media:
- Avoid sharing details of your arrest or case on social media, because those statements can be used against you.
- Avoid deleting old social medica content because they may be considered concealing evidence.
- Avoid accepting any new friend requests or connections.
Any information that is posted on the Internet may be protected as free speech. Still, law enforcement and the state or federal government may be able to access the content you have on your Facebook account or the accounts of any other Facebook sites. The same holds true for Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media posts.
The police or prosecution may seek a warrant to search your social media accounts. While you may have an expectation of privacy for posts on your own site, that likely does not hold true if you post on another site – especially a government site such as a police department.
Applicable defenses to seizure of social media evidence include:
- The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution
- The Stored Communications Act
- Maryland and federal court cases
At Carey Law Office, an experienced Bowie and Crofton criminal defense lawyer understands the fine lines between free speech and expressing an opinion, and statements/videos that may lead to criminal charges. We fight to suppress the evidence obtained through social media posts. We work to have the charges dismissed or to negotiate a fair plea agreement. To discuss any social media criminal charges, call us at 301-464-2500 or complete our contact form to make an appointment.