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Avoiding self incrimination through social media use

We live in an age where the word "personal" has begun to morph in both meaning and practice. It seems that little information is truly personal anymore in the sense that it may be kept private. The government keeps tabs on our addresses, voting records and other critical information through various means, employers are granted access to scan our corporate email accounts and we post increasingly personal information online through social networking.

Though the interconnectedness of American society is beneficial for a host of reasons, the increasingly common decision to share one's personal information voluntarily on social networks can get individuals into a great deal of trouble. One recent case highlights the fact that choosing to share personal life details online through email and social networking can compromise your criminal defense if and when you are ever accused of committing criminal activity.

An Occupy Wall Street protester was recently compelled to plead guilty to disorderly conduct charges after it became apparent that his social network postings proved his behavior to be criminal. His criminal defense strategy was destroyed after the postings came to light.

True, we should all feel free to exercise our freedom of speech at our discretion. However, there is also a reason that the Constitution generally protects us from being compelled to give self-incriminating testimony during criminal proceedings. If you choose to share the details of your personal life online in certain ways, you may be engaging in self-incrimination before charges are even filed.

Use social networks to reach out to friends, family, potential employers and the like. But please use caution when you use these networks or communicate with others via email. Whatever you say may be used against you in a court of law.

Source: New York Times, "A Brooklyn Protester Pleads Guilty After His Twitter Posts Sink His Case," Russ Buettner, Dec. 12, 2012

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