Technology has enabled an increasingly interconnected world. Billions of people now carry devices with them that allow them to instantly access the internet and social media platforms that boast millions of users. Easy mass communication with family, friends, and social communities, regardless of where they are, is now common.
Many people enjoy posting large amounts of information about themselves online, including photos, achievements, opinions, videos, and more. While sharing information and getting positive feedback can be fun and even addictive, there are risks with such behavior, particularly in certain situations.
If you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI), you need to take a social media break. There are many reasons to do so, but first and foremost is anything you post online, regardless of privacy settings, may be used by law enforcement in the case against you. Additionally, current and potential employers may view your pictures and comments, and decline to offer you professional opportunities. Finally, intentionally protecting your privacy may enable you to better protect your reputation and your future.
Being arrested for a DUI can be a stressful and even frightening experience. You may be anxious and worried about what will happen next. The fact is, some things are outside of your control. However, what you put online is not one of them. Do what you can to ensure you have the best possible defense and outcomes.
You may have been in a car accident at the time of your DUI arrest. If that is the case, you may have taken or have access to photographs of the accident, damaged vehicles or property, and any injuries for insurance purposes. Such photos are useful for necessary investigations, and may help establish liability and damages. However, under no circumstance should you post any of these images on a social media platform or online. Doing so may have inadvertent consequences, from providing new evidence in the criminal case against you to increasing your liability in a related civil case.
The self-imposed restriction on posting photos should not be limited to the DUI incident itself. It should also include no photos of you partying, consuming alcohol, or otherwise behaving as though you are not serious and remorseful about the actions that caused your DUI. State prosecutors will thoroughly investigate your online footprint. They may view your social media accounts, and those of anyone else who may know you and has tagged your image. Do not provide any fuel for the case against you.
The legal team at Skinner Law Firm has other tips about photographs that can help you to avoid the worst possible outcomes for your case. Contact us today to learn more.
Some people who are facing legal issues will intentionally avoid making comments on their own social media but still freely comment elsewhere. Do not make this mistake. Any comment you make, regardless of whether it is on your account or someone else’s, can harm your defense and help the prosecutors making the case against you.
Do not make any comments, anywhere, about drinking, drinking and driving, or law enforcement. Saying nothing is the best way to ensure you do not further damage your reputation, impune your own character, or accidentally imply you have no remorse.
The importance of silence online for your defense cannot be overstated. If you find it difficult or even impossible to stay off of social media, and you are irresistibly tempted to engage with photos or comments, you should delete your accounts. This may seem drastic; however, you can always create new accounts later, after the court has disposed of your DUI charges.
There are serious, and some still unresolved, legal issues around data, privacy, and ownership of the information available on social media platforms. The privacy settings you use, or think you are using, for your accounts and profiles on various social media sites does not mean they are actually private, or that prosecutors will not be able to access all of your information. In fact, you should never consider anything done online as absolutely secure, private, protected, or undiscoverable during a criminal investigation. This rule applies for your own social media accounts, those of people who may know you, and for anything you post elsewhere. Given this reality, the best thing you can do for yourself is to control what you post and what you share. Never assume or trust social media sites are protecting you and your information, or that “private” is actually private.
If you are charged with DUI, you need to do everything you can to help yourself. Don’t use social media, and do get an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Whether this is your first, second, or third DUI offense, you have the right to an attorney who will make every applicable defense and zealously advocate for you, your rights, and your future.
Michael J. Skinner is an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has also prosecuted DUI cases in the past. He therefore has a deep understanding of how the prosecution works, and the strategies they use to try to prove their cases.
Since Michael J. Skinner has been in the shoes of the prosecutor, his knowledge is invaluable to his clients. Past clients have entrusted him to help them get through some of the most challenging times in their lives, and you can read what they have said about their experiences with him and the legal team at Skinner Law Firm.
Facing a DUI charge can be a daunting experience, but you do not have to face it alone. Hire an advocate who will work hard for you, and get the best possible outcome for your case. Contact Skinner Law Firm today at (610) 436-1410 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.
People are often confused about the meaning and function of a grand jury in our legal system. A grand jury is a legal body comprised of a group of citizens or laypeople. They determine whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges to trial. Their job is to investigate possible criminal activity. The grand jury is presented with an accusation and supporting evidence by the prosecutor. The grand jury then decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal trial. Grand juries play a major role in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Early colonists brought the idea to the United States from England. Here in the U.S., the legal foundation for grand juries is found in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Grand juries are tools used as part of a criminal procedure to bring an indictment against a defendant. Today they are usually used in serious felony cases. However, they’re not always required and in some cases not even used. In addition to considering whether individuals may have committed a crime, a grand jury can also be used by a prosecutor as an investigative device to force witnesses to testify or turn over documents.
Approximately half of U.S. states recognize grand juries as a procedure in state criminal charges. Only North Carolina and Georgia included the right to a grand jury in their first state constitutions, but other state legislatures later passed laws authorizing grand juries. The importance and usage of grand juries vary. States that do not use grand juries instead use preliminary hearings for felony cases. Rather than instead of impaneling a grand jury, a criminal complaint would be filed, listing the charges and facts of the case. After filing, the complaint would be reviewed by a judge in a preliminary hearing. In 2018 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court changed the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The rules now provide that instead of presenting live testimony at a preliminary hearing, prosecutors may proceed by a grand jury. This is often done in cases where there is a risk of witness intimidation. Grand jury cases usually are cases of violent crimes.
A regular jury decides the facts in trial cases. A grand jury is used to decide whether probable cause exists to support criminal charges. Probable cause means that there are reasonable grounds for believing that an accusation is well-founded. Trial juries are given evidence by the prosecution and the defense. The accused is present in court and has a right to a defense attorney. In a criminal case, the trial jury must decide whether someone is guilty or innocent beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden of proof in the legal system.
A grand jury consists of 12 to 23 jurors, charged with investigating possible criminal conduct. Grand juries are used by federal, state, and county prosecutors to determine whether there is probable cause to support criminal charges.
Like trial jurors, grand jurors are chosen from a random pool of ordinary citizens. In a federal grand jury case, all U.S. citizens who are legal adults and who live in the federal court’s jurisdiction are eligible. Other requirements include adequate fluency in English. A juror must be mentally and physically able to render satisfactory jury service. Jurors must never have been convicted of a felony (unless the person’s civil rights were restored) and must not be currently charged with a felony. The court then randomly chooses candidates for the grand jury from this pool. Grand jurors are expected to serve anywhere from a month to a year on average. In most cases, it’s a few months. During that time, they usually sit a few days a week.
Once the grand jury is impaneled, the prosecutor has the power to subpoena witness testimony and other documentation. During the proceedings prosecutors present evidence, including witnesses, documents, and photos. Court officers and grand jury clerks are there, but no judge is present. Neither the accused nor the attorney for the accused has a legal right to testify. However, in most cases, the accused has an opportunity to testify, but the accused will only be questioned by the prosecutor. However, grand jurors can submit questions to the prosecutor for the witnesses. When the evidence is concluded, the prosecutor will read legal instructions to the jurors. The jurors then have the power to vote an indictment if they believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor must have established that probable cause exists to support criminal charges against the accused person.
Felony cases require a determination of probable cause that a crime has been committed in order for a case to move forward. To make this determination, there must be some evidence of each element of the offense. In some cases, this is done at a preliminary hearing, in others, a grand jury.
Grand jury proceedings are required to be secret. Therefore, the public has no right to know who was subpoenaed or what documents are reviewed. The secrecy helps to encourage witnesses to come forward and to allow the jurors to make decisions without the threat of reprisal. The requirement of secrecy also means, however, that the defendant does not know what evidence is being considered. There is a risk that the prosecutor may choose to withhold evidence that would prove favorable to the defendant.
The grand jury has been a fundamental part of the United States legal system since the nation was founded. If you are facing a criminal charge, it is important to understand that a grand jury has no power to convict someone of a crime—they can only issue an indictment. Michael J. Skinner and the attorneys at Skinner Law Firm are experienced in handling criminal defense matters. If you have questions, need legal assistance, or wish to schedule a free consultation, contact Skinner Law Firm online or call (610) 436-1410.