When you are arrested and subsequently charged with a crime by police, it’s important to find a criminal defense attorney right away. One of the first things a competent lawyer will tell you is this: Stay away from social media. Even everyday online activity could be a hindrance to your case if the prosecutor decides to subpoena emails, messages, or social media records. Even talking to someone on the phone could be dangerous to an ongoing case.
Even conversations with family offline can damage one’s case. You want to limit your interaction with people, especially regarding case details — even though this is exactly when everyone will want to hear your version of events. You don’t want anyone to hear that story until you figure out whether or not you’ll be telling it to a judge and jury.
Social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter won’t always hand over incriminating evidence to police or prosecutors, but sometimes court orders force them to do it the hard way. In fact, sometimes social media companies will argue that the Stored Communications Act of 1986 protects their customers’ privacy — even from investigators.
You might not realize that unopened email is afforded no privacy protection under law so long as it’s older than 180 days. You might expect unopened mail to be afforded exactly that, though — but earlier this year a district court ruled that it did not. The court decision was the result of a case that you can read about here.
Whereas we can support defendants by giving them relevant legal advice, it’s difficult to help those who don’t turn themselves in to the police. Take one wanted Florida man, for example: police were able to locate him when he decided to air on Instagram Live in Deland.
Kevin Gaines Jr. was sought by police on bond revocation for weapons charges. Deputy Bill Leven discovered Gaines’s vehicle at a Deland residence while Gaines was airing on Instagram Live. Leven pointed his cruiser spotlight into the house, where it appeared in the window on the broadcast stream. He was arrested shortly thereafter.
That’s just one reason why you shouldn’t use social media when a case is being built against you!
Gaines was also wanted for grand theft auto, criminal mischief, and driving without a valid driver’s license.
In 2018, Gaines was arrested for a carjacking and a drive-by shooting. He will likely be incarcerated for a long, long time whether he decides to accept a plea deal from prosecutors or not.