Advising Clients to Delete Potentially Damaging Social Media Posts


In today's technological landscape, what we say and do over the internet creates a lasting footprint. As the law evolves and adapts to this issue, we've seen how internet activity can collide with the law in numerous ways. We've also seen important decisions about how to deal with the way the internet preserves our past, including Europe's controversial 'right to be forgotten' laws.

In criminal law, defendants' internet biographies have also sparked national debates. In many cases, internet activity has been used to reveal issues about a person's character, as well as incriminating evidence about criminal activity. There have also been highly publicized stories about defendants, including celebrities, whose social media activity affected their criminal cases.

In a recent opinion from the Philadelphia bar's ethics committee, committee members stated that ethics rules don't prohibit lawyers from advising clients to delete information from their internet profile, particularly posts on their Facebook pages. The panel did state that lawyers who do make these suggestions must make efforts to preserve the information should it become relevant and discoverable.

The committee's opinion grapples with the ethical issues that arise with potentially damaging information on social media sites. Although it a common practice for attorneys to advise their clients on deleting this information, case records show that more judges are admitting social media into evidence. Layers who wrongfully conceal this information have also been sanctioned.

While lawyers are facing challenges with how they should advise clients and preserve social media communications, those facing criminal allegations are truly at the root of the issue. Social media can be a powerful tool for law enforcement and prosecutors, which is why everyone should be careful of what they post – both before and after criminal charges have been filed. When these issues are present, they can complicate cases and be used against defendants.

At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, our Columbus criminal defense attorneys offer personalized and comprehensive counsel to our clients, including advice about their social media activity. If you or someone you love is facing criminal allegations and would like to speak to a member of our legal team, contact our firm today.