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Can Facebook Get You Arrested?

Beginning in 2012 the New York Police Department famously started using Facebook posts to locate, track, arrest, and prosecute individuals who openly shared photos and statuses related to street crews. Eventually this practice morphed into something different, as the New York police and other police divisions around the country, started making use of social media to locate individuals who made threats against police officers. This created a strong division of opinion whether what was written in a social media post was an imminent threat or speech protected by the First Amendment.

Over the years, many people arrested for generally threatening police officers have been acquitted, but these practices by the N.Y.P.D. and similar programs by other police units requires all of us to question if what we put on social media could cause trouble with the law.

Facebook and Freedom of Speech

The big question for constitutional scholars and criminal defense lawyers is whether statements on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media are illegal. It is a question that the Supreme Court, has so far, left unanswered. That leaves some uncertainty regarding what could be an imminent threat or other illegal speech when written on your social media account, but here is what we do know.

The First Amendment protects a lot of speech, both spoken and written. This has included the words and ideas of some hateful people. However, there are seven categories of speech that are unprotected or only partially protected by the First Amendment. When it comes to social media, hate speech, terroristic threats, imminent threats, defamation, and inciting violence could apply.

There have been arrests in a number of states and under different circumstances that cite each of these exceptions to free speech. Sometimes, as with two young men arrested in New York for threats against the police, a grand jury chooses not to indict the individuals. In other instances, such as in the case of rapper Anthony Elonis, the case can go all the way to the Supreme Court and the question of true threats on social media remain unanswered.

Arrests for Other Reasons

However, hate speech and inciting violence are not the only reason people are getting in trouble on social media. Recently, a young woman was arrested for DUI and hit-and-run after she posted on social media about the events and police tied her to a specific incident. Unsurprisingly, she is not the only person arrested for a hit-and-run accident based on proof found in social media posts.

Other individuals were arrested for drinking and driving and even drug use, based on evidence found in their social media posts. Frequently, social media is used as proof that an individual broke a restraining order or order of protection. In many of these cases, the police had other evidence of the criminal activity, and social media posts only strengthened the case.

Speaking with a NY Criminal Defense Lawyer

The takeaway from these cases is that what you post on social media can have consequences far beyond your computer and phone. However, if your posts to social media have already led to criminal charges or interrogation by the police, you should speak with NY criminal defense lawyer.

The lawyers at Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law are closely following the effects of social media on criminal charges and understand how to strategically defend charges based on evidence gathered on Facebook, Instagram, or elsewhere. Call our 24/7 phone number today at (212)-951-1300.

 

 

The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. 

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