Social Media: A Final Thought

speedy trial PAThis morning I read a story about a bank robber in Ohio who decided it would be really cool to post photos of himself on Facebook– with wads of cash in his mouth.

It wasn’t long before the authorities found out and subsequently arrested him.

Some might say he was merely exercising his right to free speech, but the right to free speech can often come into conflict with the right to remain silent in terms of mounting a defense in a criminal case.

Sometimes a defendant feels they were mistreated by the police and they want people to know about it. Others may feel the need to proclaim their innocence to the world.

They may decide to tell their story on social media– or at least, their version of events, and in the process, they often end up sabotaging their own defense.

A criminal defense attorney has sworn an oath to defend their client to the best of their ability. That defense revolves around the facts of the case, not the right to free speech, and certainly not the feelings of the accused. It is often a cold, hard system.

The whole point of hiring a defense attorney is to have a representative in court who understands that system, the law, the procedures, the whole legal process, and can use that knowledge to mount the most effective defense possible.

A couple of years ago, I had a client who was facing some potentially serious charges. This client was quite naturally scared and emotions were running high. In our first of several court appearances, I filed a motion with the court as a part of our overall long term strategy.

My client was visibly upset. Not with the motion, but with my rather business-like approach to the situation. It was only much later, when we had  achieved a favorable outcome in the case, that my client realized there was ‘due process’.

“The first time we went to court, I wanted you to jump up and loudly proclaim my innocence. It never occurred to me that you were doing exactly what I paid you to do: Navigate a system that I don’t understand.”

The legal system is very complex, and a case can be derailed when the defendant decides to speak for themselves. It’s even worse when the accused posts what can be considered evidence of their criminal activity on the internet.

And posting photos of yourself posing with large sums of cash while  having no reasonable explanation as to where it came from, makes it extremely difficult to mount an effective defense– especially in a case involving, for example, drug dealing or bank robbery.

Yes, you have every right to go online and speak your mind, but the point is not to speak your mind. The point is to walk away from a criminal case with the best outcome possible, and the best way to do that is to let your attorney do the talking.

My job is to minimize damage. It’s incredibly difficult to effectively do that job when the client works against their own interests by exercising their right to free speech, instead of exercising their right to a fair trial, their right to legal council, and their right to remain silent.


Leave a Reply