You may not have realized it, but you’ve been a witness to a crime.
There are millions of people posting criminal evidence on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tik Tok.
For example, there’s a comments sections under videos posted by a lawyer on TikTok, Alex Peter. Folks frequently ask for legal advice, talk about how to commit crimes and confess to crimes they’ve already committed. “How do I get away with murder? “Me and a guy called Lester stole 2.3 million from the diamond casino” “I once made the mistake to buy dirty drugs and sell it to someone” “I once sold a stolen gun to a guy in 1993” to “I shot a man in an Applebee’s parking lot.”
True or not, how would these comments look if played out in court? On social media, truth and lies are blurred and and trolling is a blood sport. So, you must ask yourself if there’s legal ramifications to even semi-jokingly posting about past or future criminal activity?
1. You are not truly anonymous
Whatever you post online is digitally permanent and will be traced back to you. Potential employers, background checks, criminal investigations, and online dating all do deep dives into social media.
Prosecutors and police frequently obtain search warrants to search for usernames associated with online social media accounts using biographical information. “Anonymous” usernames won’t protect you very much
2. Anything you post can and will be used against you
People have posted information that ends up being used against them in court for a long time. Searches have become more and more sophisticated increasing the danger to a poster.
Folks have posted pictures holding a gun, mounds of cash or drugs which is photographic evidence of a crime. Even a Facebook status (frown emoji, hate, dislike) could be used against in court to imply bias towards an individual or motive to commit a crime. That’s why prosecutors go after social media of a defendant.
The thing is that posts are like written statements. What people “say” verbally is subject to bias and nuance while written records are more credible evidence. That said, when you post a comment on that lawyer’s Tik Tok video, remember that guy is not your lawyer, it’s not confidential, and you do not have attorney-client privilege.
3. Legal Q and A
I answer questions on legal sites such as AVVO and Justia regularly. Posters can’t help but detail their case situations and ask for legal advice from lawyers. They answer these questions for exposure and phone calls from potential clients. However, posters confess to all sorts of things and since they are NOT clients (AND they’ve posted for all the world to read) there’s no attorney-client privilege. That’s why many lawyers include a disclaimer after each answer. Mine reads: “Every case and situation is different, so answers my will vary depending on the specific facts of each one. Responses shouldn’t be considered complete answers to any question and an answer doesn’t establish an attorney/client relationship. Always seek the advice of your own attorney.”
4. Flip Side of the Coin
What if someone made fake posts using your name to frame you for a crime or act? If you can find out when and where those posts came from could help clear your name. Just remember that nothing is as anonymous as you think.
You have the right to remain silent. Do that.