How Social Media Activity Can Impact your Legal Case

In today’s digital world, most of us have a seemingly insatiable desire to stay connected. For many, social media is an integral part of their daily life. They log into their favorite social media platforms first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. They post status updates, read and comment on other peoples’ posts, and try to stay up to date on all of the latest things that are happening.

Social media activity is generally harmless – as long as you do not allow it to consume too much of your life. When someone is involved in a legal case, however, social media becomes more than just a fun way for someone to stay connected with their family and friends. Electronic communication leaves a permanent digital fingerprint, and the things you post and comment on when you are on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms can be used against you by the other side.

Social Media Activity During a Personal Injury Claim

If you were injured because of the negligent actions of another party, you may be pursuing damages against the responsible party and/or their insurer. For example, you got hurt in a car crash after the other driver ran a stop sign. The other driver was clearly at fault, so what would be the harm in continuing to be active on social media while the claim is ongoing?

Maybe in this case there is no dispute over who caused the accident, but there could still be a lot of questions about the extent of your injuries. The insurance company for the other side is going to want to mitigate their losses, so they will look for any reason to claim that your injuries are not as bad as you say they are.

How does this relate to social media? Well, let’s say you are claiming noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress, but you post a photo of you and your family smiling and relaxing while on vacation. Or maybe you decide to make some optimistic remarks to reassure those who are concerned about your health that you are feeling a lot better and you are on the road to recovery. You can see how these types of posts could be distorted by the other side to argue that your noneconomic damages should be reduced.

Social Media Activity during a Family Law Case

In a family law case such as a divorce or child custody proceeding, any social media posts relating to the case are ill-advised. For example, posts that bash your spouse exceedingly can make you seem petty and are likely to be looked at unfavorably by a court. Posts that show you being involved with another party could also be damaging, especially if your children show up in the pictures as well.

It is always best to stay silent as much as possible during a family legal proceeding, and this applies not only to social media activity, but to text messages and other private messages as well. All of this information is discoverable and admissible in court, so do not engage in any digital activity that you don’t want the whole world to see.

Electronic Activity during a Criminal Case

If you are facing any type of criminal charge, you can absolutely count on law enforcement to comb through every piece of your digital activity that they can get their hands on. This could include not only your social media activity, but everything else that is contained on your cell phone, tablet, or computer.

Even if these devices are password-protected, that may not be enough. Criminal suspects can be served with a demand to turn over their passwords, the failure of which could lead to additional penalties. And even if you do not turn over your passwords, law enforcement agencies have some of the most up-to-date technologies to be able to access the information within these devices through other means.

The bottom line is that if you are involved in a criminal case, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy with regards to any of your electronic activity. All of it can be discovered one way or another, even files that you thought were permanently deleted, and it can all be used against you by the prosecution.

Always Follow the Advice of Your Attorney

The very best practice for anyone involved in a legal case is to suspend your all electronic activity immediately and wait until after the case is resolved before you resume it. But that said, we know that many people cannot quit everything and totally unplug from the digital world.

At the very least, keep your activity to a minimum, and closely follow the advice of your legal counsel on this and other important matters. Your attorney knows the specifics of your case and what activities could jeopardize it. By doing what they tell you to do, you will be in the best possible position to secure a favorable outcome.

 

 

Domestic Violence Surges with Coronavirus

In her article for The New York Times, law enforcement reporter Ashley Southall said one man ‘beat his girlfriend so badly that he broke a bone in her face after she took a long time to run an errand’. The woman had left her apartment to buy some groceries. Her local shop had closed due to the virus. This forced her to visit another store to find what she needed. The delay enraged her drunk boyfriend who then beat and choked her, even hitting her in the face with a trash can. She required treatment for the extensive swelling, bruises, and fractures to her face.  Sadly, situations like this play out all over the world, every day. An abuser does not need a global pandemic to justify their actions. Yet in each of the examples Southall used, we see how survivors are being harmed by the link between domestic violence and Coronavirus.

Conflicting Reports

Around the world countries are reporting a rise in domestic violence. Authorities have said this is hardly surprising. Reports of domestic violence always increase when families spend more time together. For this reason intimate partner violence hotlines often see an increase in call volume during the holidays. The same is true of most cities around the world as we all take precautions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

However, many major cities are actually seeing a decline. Places like Boston, New York City, and others have seen a significant decline in reports from pre-pandemic numbers. Experts say this drop is bad news.

Crisis Drives Domestic Violence

We know that abuse of any kind is all about power and control. These are unprecedented circumstances. There is much we still do not know about this virus. Researchers aren’t even certain yet if this will be a short or long term issue. Concern over the virus has resulted in very sudden and drastic changes for families all across the nation. People are out of work or working from home. Children who were once in school are now home full time with the added stress of distance learning. Researchers and government agencies are unsure of when to lift the stay at home restrictions.

So much uncertainty has many people feeling like they have very little control over their lives right now. Abusers struggle to handle these kinds of changes. The more out of control they feel, the more an abusers will try to regain that control by taking it out on their victims. Authorities worry that an extended shelter in place order will have disastrous consequences for survivors.

Domestic Violence and Coronavirus: A Means of Control

Unsurprisingly, abusers are taking advantage of the virus to further control their victims. The National Domestic Violence Hotline warns that abusers may use fear of the virus to further isolate and terrorize their victims. Abusive partners may threaten to lock a survivor out of their home to prevent them from leaving. They may share misinformation about the virus to scare survivors into remaining at home, even if they need medical care. They may also use it to prevent them from seeking help from family or friends. “A chatter mentioned that the abuser was using the virus as a scare tactic to keep the survivor away from their kids”, says the Hotline’s website.

It is also not just those trapped at home who are negatively affected by domestic violence and coronavirus. Even essential workers are seeing a change in their abuser’s tactics as a result of the pandemic. One chatter, a healthcare professional, called the Hotline and reported that “they were physically abused … because their abuser was sure they were trying to infect them with COVID-19.”

Virus Prevents Survivors From Seeking Help

The virus itself is also acting as a barrier to survivors seeking help. Southall says that many are choosing to remain at home with their abusers instead of risking exposure to the virus. She cites one example of a woman who called the Violence Intervention Program in New York. She wanted to leave her abusive husband but ‘decided the risk of exposing herself and her infant to the virus at a shelter was too high.’ Margarita Guzmán, the executive director at the Violence Intervention Program stated, “It’s really, for her, a choice between whether she stays with the devil she knows, or whether she risks what could be increased safety from the abuse but could also mean increased risk of the virus, and both with potentially lethal factors at the ends of it.”

Others remain over fears of endangering the lives of the loved ones they might call on for help. The CDC states that those most at risk of becoming seriously ill are the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions. Many choose to stay out of fear that it would expose their elderly parents or a medically fragile friend to a potentially deadly virus. And with limited shelter space and resources even during the best of times, survivors fear they will have nowhere to go even if they do try to leave. 

Why is Reporting Down in Some Places?

Simply put, survivors have lost a major avenue of support. The stay at home order means that survivors are stuck at home where they may have very little privacy from their abuser. Trying to get enough time alone to make a phone call or to talk to a friend or neighbor is a dangerous game. Being confined in such close contact means her abuser is more easily able to keep tabs on her every move. A locked door or a hushed conversation can easily turn into physical violence.

Some programs are now offering text or online counselling to reach those who are housebound. Unfortunately, these platforms pose their own risks. Using text or online chats creates a digital paper trail that abusers can gain access to. And others may have no access to the outside world at all, digital or otherwise. Southall said ‘some victims are … effectively cut off from the outside world. Kavita Mehra, the executive director of Sakhi for South Asian Women, said one client’s husband had disconnected her cellphone to cut expenses after losing his job.’ With the price of failure being more violence, many survivors are choosing to remain silent and lie low until the stay at home orders relax.

Seek Legal Advice

Authorities believe reports of domestic violence will rise as states come out of lock down. States should prepare for an influx of people seeking services and orders of protection. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence you may be in need of legal services. It is important to seek an attorney who has experience representing domestic violence cases. Look for law firms specializing in personal injury, criminal, and family law. These attorneys, like those at Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., will be happy to help you protect yourself and your rights.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via text or call at 1-800-799-7233. Here also are some state and national helplines and resources.

Call Olmstead & Olmstead at (703) 361-1555 for more information about domestic violence and Coronavirus.

 

Ten Tips on Finding the Best Criminal Law Attorney

Navigating the legal system can be challenging at best, but if you suddenly find yourself charged with a crime or even arrested, it can be terrifying. Along with the natural fear comes the overwhelm and uncertainty of what to do. Making a wrong move can be devastating to your case and going into court without adequate representation could bring consequences that could affect your life long into the future. In fact, finding the best criminal law lawyer for your needs could arguably be one of the most important aspects of your case. Read on for ten tips on finding the best criminal law attorney.

Tip Number One: Timing is Crucial

If you find yourself in a situation where you might need a criminal law attorney, do not delay. It might be tempting to put off the search until your trial date is closer, but that is only making your situation more stressful. You are doing your future attorney a disservice by not giving them time to adequately prepare. In addition, you may find yourself in a situation where you must settle for an attorney that is not your best fit because you are running out of time.

Tip Number Two: Specialization is Important

Make sure the attorney you choose specializes in criminal law. That’s not to say that they can’t also specialize in other things. Just make sure that you do not hire, for example, a tax attorney who has never worked outside of that field to handle your DUI case. Find someone who understands the ins and outs of criminal law.

Tip Number Three: Communication is Key

Find an attorney who makes communication a priority. Attorney’s are busy and you’re certainly not going to be their only case. Even so, at the most basic level, you should have an email and phone number where your attorney can easily be reached. They should follow up within a reasonable time frame when contacted and not appear irritated when you have questions. A good criminal law attorney will also keep you updated on changes or progress on your case and will listen to your wishes and goals as well as provide practical advice.

Tip Number Four: Clear Fee Structure

It is imperative that the criminal law attorney you hire has a clear fee structure. Ask for an explanation if you don’t understand and beware of anyone who refuses to clarify or skirts around the issue. Also, when making comparisons between various fee structures, pay close attention to the details. One lawyer might appear more expensive than another at first, but a closer look might show that they charge more up front and less for ongoing expenses where it might be just the opposite for the other lawyer. The important thing is that the fee structure is clear and up-front and that you are made to feel comfortable about asking questions.

Tip Number Five: Presence of Empathy

At first glance, this might seem like it should be a secondary consideration, but it’s really just the opposite. Facing potential criminal sanctions is an emotionally charged situation. You need someone who has the courtroom expertise, but you also need a compassionate criminal law attorney who will be supportive and understanding of your stress.

Tip Number Six: Prepare in Advance

You wouldn’t shop for an expensive TV without making at least a mental list of your most sought-after requirements, so why would you do that when shopping for a criminal law attorney? Before you start making phone calls, visiting websites, or taking advantage of free consultations, make sure you have a list of what you are looking for. Gather important documents and evidence, if you have any. Make a list of witnesses and what they are prepared to say and do on your behalf. The more homework you do in advance, the more time you and your legal team will have to prepare a solid defense.

Tip Number Seven: First Impressions Matter

It’s a cliché, but it also rings true. When meeting your prospective criminal law attorney for the first time, pay attention to their social cues. Do they seem enthusiastic and interested to hear about your case, or are you met with irritation and disdain? Are you offered realistic advice or sweeping guarantees over which they have no actual control? Take stock of what is going on during that first meeting, but remember it goes both ways. Make sure you are also putting your best foot forward when meeting an attorney for the first time. If they’re going to work for you, they need to believe in you, so don’t give them any reason not to.

Tip Number Eight: Ask About Criminal Law Experience

Delve a little into experience before making a final decision on which lawyer to hire. Just because you find someone who specializes in criminal law, doesn’t mean they’ve ever had a case involving your particular situation.  Of course, everyone has to start somewhere. Pay attention to any initial strategy or advice the attorney offers as well as their level of confidence about representing your case.

Tip Number Nine: Explore All Options

Find an attorney who is willing to listen to your wishes and goals. Of course, their main job is to develop a winning strategy, but they should also be willing to accept your input. Your criminal law attorney should be open to exploring many possibilities. It shouldn’t be a “once size fits all” approach when it comes to your freedom and finances.

Tip Number Ten: Follow Your Instincts

The final tip is to simply follow your instincts. It may sound overly simplistic, but if your gut is telling you something is wrong, you at least owe it to yourself to stop for a moment and reflect. If the attorney you meet with is not interacting in a professional manner or does not meet the criteria on your list, then perhaps it’s time to seek other counsel.

Hire a Quality Criminal Law Lawyer

If you are interested in learning more about hiring an attorney experienced in criminal law, please contact Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C. at (703) 361-1555 today. We can provide a comprehensive consultation as well as all the information you need to make the best decision for your criminal law needs.

Call Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C. at (703) 361-1555 to learn more about hiring a criminal law attorney today!