Let’s discuss the chances your pictures and posts on social media can be used against you in a civil or criminal trial. Be aware!
Like a lot of people, you post a lot on social media. Get your hair cut? You are putting it on Instagram so your friends can comment on whether they like it or not. But what happens if you end up in Court for some reason – can the other side force you to give them your private Facebook photos and messages?
Social Media posts and messages are really fertile grounds for discovery in all sorts of cases. In family law cases – they might show what kind of lifestyle you are living, whether you leave your kids home alone at night or even infidelity.
In a personal injury case – you might have posted your recent kickboxing session or even Olympic weightlifting routine, all the while telling your doctor’s how horribly injured you are (don’t do that).
The first thing to know about discovery, in general, is that Judges are given wide latitude in how they rule on discovery issues. Make sure you know the Judge and his past rulings.
The second thing is that the courts have framed the argument as one of Relevancy v. Privacy. In Nucci v. Target – the current case on point in Florida, a slip and fall case, the Court allowed limited discovery of Plaintiff’s social media and cellphone information.
You can see the Court working on a sliding scale – the more relevant the information might be to the case, the less privacy rights are taken into account. The Court found that pictures from up to two years pre-injury were relevant to show what physical condition the Plaintiff was in before the accident.
The problem in an accident case is that almost ANY picture of the Plaintiff doing ANYTHING is relevant to their injuries and physical limitations. Privacy goes out the door.
So, the bottomline is that the other side can get almost anything that can be construed as relevant to your case. In a family law case – that might be any pictures taken after 11 pm – to show possible neglect of the children. In a criminal case it would likely include any pics taken on the date of the crime.
Be careful, with photos and posts that never really go away – your concept of “privacy” doesn’t really apply and that photo can come back to haunt you.