There are any number of celebrities who comment publicly on social media about legal processes they are involved in, though this represents a headache both for the attorneys representing them as well as judges. Posting online by itself might be understandable: it can be easy to assume that nothing in our online life can affect our offline life. However, this is not true.
This blog post will explain the legal definition of hearsay and address whether Tennessee courts consider social media as hearsay. Keep in mind that you can and should always contact a Memphis criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges. We have the experience to get the best possible result for you.
General Precautions: Don’t Talk about Your Case on Social Media
Social media can absolutely be used as evidence in court, and social media posts have even been the deciding factor in some cases. For that reason, it is best not to post anything at all regarding any case with which you are involved online.
If your posts are public, lawyers will have access to them. And if there’s a criminal law process underway, prosecutors may have access to your private posts during discovery. Discovery is the phase of a court case where both sides investigate.
Knowledgeable prosecutors will be able to do a lot of damage to your case with just one post or comment, even worse if you have more. Lawyers on both sides will be trying to find proof, particularly in photos and videos, where opponents contradict what they say in court. While jurors are cautioned against researching the case on social media, the lawyers can and often will do so.
Anything you post on social media, publicly or privately, is a big risk. You can end up hurting your case, your credibility in court, and even have to deal with more charges of obstruction of justice or contempt of court
What Is Hearsay?
Hearsay is defined as a statement made out-of-court, but which is being offered as evidence in court as proof that whatever the statement claims is true.
For example, say neighbor Alicia sees someone breaking into a corner store after the owner closed up at night. Alicia later tells her friend Bob that she believes the culprit is their other neighbor, Carol. If Carol is later charged with breaking and entering, it would be hearsay for Bob to testify about what he heard from Alicia.
Do Hearsay Rules Apply to Social Media?
Almost all legal rules associated with our offline lives have an equivalent in the digital sphere. Something posted online regarding your case might or not be hearsay, depending on the nature of the posting itself and whether a hearsay exception applies.
Let’s say you file a lawsuit after a car accident. It may be considered hearsay if you or your lawyer want to prove your injuries by pointing to a Facebook post where you tell your family about the accident.
There are situations in which similar posts might fit under an exception for hearsay. In the same car accident example, the opposing lawyer may be able to introduce as evidence a post where you talk about participating in a marathon on the weekend before the trial. “Admission of a party-opponent” is an acceptable exception to hearsay rules.