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What You Tweet May Be Used Against You

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Following her arraignment on her most recent criminal charge, Lindsey Lohan took to Twitter in an attempt to clear her name. On February 10th, Lohan tweeted the following:

“Was on the phone with my sister&this movie Greenberg is on, i heard my voice which was odd- and ryhs ifans is watching Just My Luck in the movie- made me laugh.. i just want to be on set again, and left alone to just work! fyi- i would never steal, in case people are wondering. I was not raised to lie, cheat, or steal… also, what i wear to court shouldnt be front page news. it’s just absurd. god bless xox L”

The behavior of high-profile criminal defendants like Lohan provide a good example of how the power of social media can impact a criminal case. While Lohan’s statements are not an admission of guilt, when compared with her attorney’s statement to CNN that Lohan would be seeking a plea deal is confusing at best. As a criminal defense attorney, we must make our client’s aware of the risk that statements made on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be used against them in court and may potentially hinder their lawyer’s ability to effectively achieve their optimal outcome.  Let’s not be naive, just because judges and prosecutor’s should not let their perception of the criminal defendant affect their judgment, doesn’t mean that is what happens in the real world. On more than one occasion in my practice, plea negotiations have been hampered after the prosecutor assigned to my client’s case visited my client’s Facebook page and read what my client had to say about the victim or witnesses involved.

Should the Miranda Warnings be amended to include: “… anything you say or tweet may be used against you in a court of law…”? Obviously not.  However, as social networking continues to grow in popularity and affects how individuals communicate with one another, a good criminal defense attorney should advise their client that what they tweet or post online may be used against them.

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