In the age of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, a common question that criminal defense attorneys hear is, “Can social media posts be used against you in a shoplifting case?” The short answer is yes.
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Be careful what you post on a social media site, particularly if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense. Nearly everything you post on a social media can be used as evidence against you in a court of law.
A New Source of Evidence
Almost everyone uses social media nowadays. It’s a great way to share information and news, stay in touch with friends and family members, and make new acquaintances. Sometimes, however, users exercise poor judgment and post information that they later regret. Being careless with the information you share can come back to haunt you, especially if you’ve been charged with a crime like shoplifting.
In Texas, shoplifting is a misdemeanor crime punishable by fines and/or jail time, depending on what was stolen and how much it was worth. In a shoplifting case, a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict is arrived at based on the evidence presented at the trial. Traditionally, this evidence has been in the form of eyewitness testimony and/or surveillance images. Today, it is becoming increasingly common for prosecutors to introduce evidence gathered from a new source: a defendant’s social media activity.
Don’t Let Social Media Activity Sabotage Your Case
You have no privacy rights to information shared on a social media network. The courts have held that social media messages and postings are a form of public activity. This even applies to posts that are marked “private” or intended for a select audience. To avoid having your social media posting come back to haunt you in a shoplifting trial, there are some rules you should keep in mind when it comes to posting content on social media sites.
Before you click the “submit” button, consider the impression a judge or jury will get from viewing your social media posts. Information carelessly posted on social media sites can undermine the merits of your case and be used to attack your credibility. For instance, a defendant in a shoplifting case can tell the judge and jury that they have never stolen anything in their lives. Then the prosecution shows the jury a social media post where the defendant brags about his crime and even posts pictures of themselves posing with the stolen merchandise. Oops…
You may also inadvertently waive your attorney-client privilege rights by posting information related to conversations you had with your lawyer pertaining to the details in your case. Once you’ve posted this information to a social media site, the court may decide that this is no longer protected, privileged information and can be used against you.
Will Deleting Social Media Posts Help?
Can social media posts be used against you in a shoplifting case if you’ve deleted them? The answer is still yes. If you have posted content that could have an impact on your case, do not delete it.
For one thing, deleting the information does not mean that it cannot be retrieved. Remember, even though an account is in your name, the information you post belongs to the company that owns the social media site. In many instances, it is not a problem to recover deleted information. At best, deleting information can give the impression that you are trying to hide something; at worst, it can open you up to charges of tampering with or destroying evidence.
Are Snapchat Posts Safe?
Snapchat is an app that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Users can send picture and video content to select users, and the content then disappears after 10 seconds. This may lead some users to assume Snapchat posts are safe from use in a criminal case, but that simply isn’t true.
Even though the message may disappear from your phone, recipients may screenshot the information. While you get an alert if someone does screenshot your content, knowing that they’ve done so doesn’t change the fact that it’s done. In addition to this, the Snapchat app also saves metadata from your content, which can be used in court.
Answers to Your Questions About Theft Charges
A Houston theft case may be dismissed for a few different reasons. Among the most common reasons are:
– Absence of probable cause.
– Police searched the premises illegally.
– Inadequate or lost evidence.
You can also get a theft case dismissed through pretrial diversion.
Read more about getting a theft case dismissed in Houston.
If found guilty of theft charges in Texas, a defendant’s previous convictions can affect their punishment. Prior convictions can result in a longer jail sentence and/or a higher fine. Furthermore, you may have difficulties getting a house, a loan, and a job if you have committed a felony in Texas.
Read more about how prior convictions affect Houston theft cases.
A person’s arrest record for theft or other criminal charges typically remains with them their whole lives. There may be a negative impact on loan applications, rental applications, college applications, and other aspects. Yet there are some ways to keep a public arrest from being publicized, including expungement and orders of non-disclosure.
An expungement is the removal of your arrest record from the public record. It is as if you were never arrested, and you can legally deny being arrested.
“Record sealing,” or an order for non-disclosure, does not completely remove an arrest from your record, but it does prevent most parties from viewing it.
Read more about how to remove an arrest for your record in Texas
Speak With a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Who Understands the Role of Social Media in a Trial Setting
If you or someone you know has been charged with a shoplifting crime in Houston, it is important to select a lawyer familiar with the latest technologies used in law enforcement. Lisa Shapiro Strauss has been providing outstanding criminal defense representation to residents of Houston and surrounding communities for nearly 20 years. She knows all the techniques prosecutors use to discover evidence in a criminal case and how a client’s social media history can be used against them.
Don’t let social networking make a bad situation worse. Give Lisa a call at (713) 449-9922 or contact her online to speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney about your case.