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Updated: Jun 15, 2023 @ 7:29 pm

The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases

With the proliferation of smart phones, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the way information is disseminated and consumed. Social media, in particular, has become an integral part of our lives.

These online media outlets influence not only our business & personal lives, but can also have a powerful impact on the outcome of criminal investigations and open cases in the criminal justice system.

As a Board Certified® criminal defense attorney with over three decades of experience, I’ve seen firsthand how social profile updates and other postings have significantly influenced the trajectory of criminal cases.

Social Media & Criminal Investigations

Federal & local law enforcement agencies take full advantage of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use them as tools in their investigations. Local & federal police agencies see these platforms as treasure troves of information.

Your updates on these platforms can provide police and others with tons of information like your location, activities, associates, and even incriminating evidence.

In Texas, the police can use this information as probable cause for a warrant, as outlined in the Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 18.01(b).

As long as it satisfies the Texas Rules of Evidence, the information police copy or screenshot from your social media updates is admissible in court.

However, there are limits.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects U.S. Citizens against unreasonable searches. This protection extends to your social media accounts. Without a warrant, the police can’t compel the owners of social platforms to hand over private messages, hidden posts, or other non-public information.

Postings on Social Profiles & Courtroom Evidence

Data copied from user’s social media profiles is presented as evidence in Texas criminal cases more and more. Images, videos, and messages are used by law enforcement to corroborate other pieces of evidence, establish timelines, or demonstrate a motive.

Competent defense attorneys should always challenge this kind of evidence whenever possible. Questions of authenticity, relevance, and potential prejudice should get just consideration per the Texas Rules of Evidence 401, 403, and 901.

Jury Impartiality & Social Platforms

Voir dire (jury selection) is another part of the criminal justice process where social media profiles & updates can have a major impact. As a result, Attorneys now scour prospective jurors’ social media profiles to glean insights about their biases to assist with selecting jurors.

However, this increased access to personal information can pose challenges in ensuring a fair trial. Jurors may be influenced by information they find online which could be about the case or the parties involved.

Texas courts have grappled with this issue. As a result, jurors are now instructed to avoid social media discussions about cases they’re involved in, as required by Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 36.22.

The Phenomenon of Self Snitching via Social Media

Inadvertently, individuals may incriminate themselves through their social media activities. As a defense attorney, I advise my clients to exercise caution when posting on social media, especially when legal proceedings are ongoing.

In this day and age, “self-snitching” is the term used to describe the act of providing self-incriminating evidence on social websites, profiles, and musical works.

Moreover, certain actions online can lead to additional criminal charges such as cyberbullying or online harassment, as defined under Texas Penal Code Section 33.07.

If you’re involved in a questionable lifestyle or were accused of a crime, stay off of social apps & websites or completely deactivate your profile. If you’re one of my clients and we determine your social presence to be a risk to your case, we’ll politely ask you to eliminate those profiles.

Addressing the Risks Associated with Social Profiles

At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we understand the influence of social media in the criminal justice landscape. We’re very proactive in mitigating the impact of social media on our clients’ cases and taking advantage of things we find that help our clients.

Whether it’s challenging the admissibility of social media evidence, investigating juror biases, or advising on online behavior during ongoing cases, we’re committed to helping our clients navigate these complexities.

Remember, things we post online can be used in a court of law. Whether it’s used against you or on your behalf.

Social Media in the Context of the State

Social media postings can provide a treasure trove of evidence to strengthen a prosecutor’s case. For instance, bragging about a crime online, sharing images or videos of illegal activities, flashing cash & property or even making threatening remarks could be used as evidence by the state & federal government.

The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates recognize this reality. Our legal team is trained to take preemptive steps to scrutinize the government’s evidence and challenge its validity, when appropriate.

As experienced criminal defense lawyers, we know the importance of reviewing the state’s methods obtaining this type of evidence, its authenticity, and the relevance to the case.

Preserving Social Media Evidence for Defense

While there’s lots of potential harm associated with social media profiles as it relates to criminal cases, we also recognize the value of this data for building a strong defense strategy.

Just as prosecutors look for incriminating evidence, we use these platforms for the benefit of our clients. We may use them to find exonerating information that might contradict the prosecution’s narrative, support an alibi, or even point to another suspect.

It’s important to note that preserving this type of evidence is crucial, given that social media posts can be deleted & accounts deactivated. This is where our expertise comes into play. We’ll see to it that proper legal processes are followed to preserve potential evidence that can support our client’s case.

Have Questions About A Legal Situation?

Talk With A Houston Defense Lawyer Today!

If you need to talk with a Houston criminal defense lawyer about a sensitive criminal matter, we’re here to help. As a seasoned attorney that’s Board Certified® in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, I’ve seen the legal landscape from varying perspectives.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Tad Nelson

At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we’re committed to providing quality legal representation and protecting our clients’ freedom.

If you’re facing misdemeanor or felony criminal charges in Houston, the stakes are high. If you have a criminal history or want to avoid one, it’s important to have the right lawyer on your side. With our understanding of the law, you can expect robust defense strategies tailored to the realities of the day.

For your convenience, we have law firm locations throughout the Greater Houston area. We provide free initial consultations and affordable payment options. If you have any questions, contact us today at 713-659-0909.

The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases

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The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases
The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases
The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases
The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases
The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases
The Impact of Social Media on Texas Criminal Cases