Learning About Criminal Law Proceedings

4 Pieces Of Advice To Avoid Ending Up In Jail Over A Facebook Post

It sounds like something that would happen in another country: You make a Facebook post and suddenly find yourself facing criminal charges. It happens all the time.

In fact, it's happening with increasing frequency as the line between social media and the everyday lives of people tend to blur further together. More and more people think of Facebook as a combination of online diary and coffee shop or bar where they go to vent -- they either don't realize that they're potentially crossing legal boundaries with their posts or that the police are actually watching social media these days for evidence of crimes.

If you want to avoid ending up in jail over a Facebook post, here are some tips that will help:

1. Never post a picture of yourself doing something illegal.

While this probably shouldn't have to be said, a surprising number of people have done exactly that. The police don't need a warrant to look at your public pages and they don't need a warrant if a friend (or a friend of a friend) decides to send them a screenshot of something like you smiling while you siphon gas from a police cruiser.

2. Don't reach out and contact someone who has a restraining order against you.

Even something as non-verbal as a Facebook "poke" can land you in jail if the person you choose to interact with happens to have a restraining order against you. Sending someone a private message, "liking" one of their posts, commenting directly back to them on a community board to which you both happen to belong, sending a friend request, or even writing an apology note and tagging them is also enough to get you arrested.

3. Don't interact with the parties involved in a criminal trial unless you want to be the center of your own.

People seem to forget the jurors are bound by some very strict rules and that they have to avoid interaction with other people that might affect the integrity of a trial. If you happen to know someone who is on a jury for a trial that's making big news, resist the impulse to ask them about the case -- they can't tell you and, if they do, you could both be in trouble.

If you happen to be a jury member, stay off your social media page if you're told to do so -- if the judge finds out that you've been even lurking around to catch up on the news (or maybe see what your friends think about the guilt or innocence of the defendant), you could be in big trouble.

4. Don't post threats of any kind on Facebook.

While there are a lot of different possible outcomes if you do (because some language is considered free speech), the smart thing to do is avoid making threats against anybody -- especially if those threats are specific and of a physical nature. At the very least, if that person ends up hurt, you'll have given the police a lot of evidence to use against you.

If you're currently under investigation because of something that happened in cyberspace, talk to a criminal defense attorney from a firm like The Fitzpatrick Law Firm -- before you get charged. He or she may be able to diffuse the situation early or at least offer you good advice on how to proceed.