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Social Networking Sites Can Help and Hurt Criminal Defendants

Florida prosecutors and defense attorneys now have an unlikely resource to score impeachment material for their trials. Social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook have provided both sides of the courtroom with evidence that is used to cast a negative light on a witnesses’ character.

For example, defense attorneys representing clients charged with battery have used a MySpace page containing a video of the so-called victim beating someone up to show that someone other than their client was the aggressor of the fight. On the flip side, prosecutors offered a MySpace picture of a smiling 22-year-old defendant, holding a glass of wine with comments about getting drunk against her in the sentencing phase of her vehicular manslaughter case. The photo was posted after the DUI accident, and prosecutors argued that the post was evidence of lack of remorse for the crime. As a result, instead of getting sentenced to probation, the young woman was sentenced to prison time.

My grandmother used to tell me to never to do anything that I wouldn’t be proud to have on the front page of the local newspaper and this lesson holds true for websites like Facebook and MySpace. The moral learned from these two examples is never to post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t be proud to have a judge or anyone in the community to see–you never know how it could be used against you. Questions or comments about this post can be directed to Pinellas County criminal attorney Whittel & Melton, LLC at 866-608-5LAW.

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