This has probably happened to me 3 times in my 18-year career. A Connecticut teenager or college student client of mine is arrested in Darien, Wilton, or Greenwich Connecticut for either a drug, alcohol or sexual assault-related crime. As part of their case, I meet with the prosecutor and argue emphatically that these are good kids—hard-working students—who don’t get into trouble and hang around in a good crowd.
And then the prosecutor reaches into her file and pulls out a printout of my clients’ Facebook or Instagram pages and shows me outrageous photos. All from dates AFTER their arrests. The photos speak for themselves: kids crushing beer cans on their heads, someone guzzling beer through a funnel (doing a handstand no less!), and another kid looking very drunk with two girls around his arms.
Are the photos illegal? No. But they make terrible impressions and completely undermine the work of the criminal defense attorney trying to get your child’s arrest dismissed.
So here are 3 things parents need to know right now if your high school or college student has been arrested in New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich or Wilton Connecticut.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Now and then, I’ve had to sit for interviews and meetings inside the Youth Bureaus and Special Victims Units of most Fairfield County Police Departments. Sure enough, I’ve seen detectives browsing the social media pages of the wild kids in town, mining sites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter for information, photographs, rumors about drug dealing, assaults, rape accusations and the upcoming weekend’s underage drinking parties.
These Youth Officers get the benefit of state-funded and federally-funded training sessions on all the latest web and smartphone communications apps, so they’re either a step ahead…(or, unlike us parents, just a step behind).
So as you probably have done already, tell your kids that they should assume anything they post online may as well be on the cover of the New York Times. Police and School Resource Officers are getting paid to troll the internet and to provide any alarming photos or postings to law enforcement and court prosecutors when appropriate.
Tightening up privacy filters on your child’s social media from “public” to “private” or “friends only” isn’t enough. Have them take down all of their social media while their criminal cases in the Stamford, Norwalk or Danbury criminal or juvenile courts are pending. Prosecutors WILL hold immature or reckless photos or postings against them in court (even if your child didn’t author the posting, but it’s on their site).
Have Your Child Create 2 Social Media Accounts—Professional / Academic vs. Personal
And finally, regardless of whether your Fairfield County teenager has been arrested, it’s usually a good idea for your teenager to create 2 social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. (Although as my kids have explained to me, most teenagers have ditched Facebook because all of us parents are on it now!)
But the concept is a good one: have them create professional, mature social media accounts in their full name that can be viewed without reservation by teachers, school administrators and potential employers and college admissions officers. Then, have them create an additional social media account in another name, perhaps incorporating their initials, middle name, or hometown or street name. This way, they can post a bit more freely and socially on that account without fear of being judged or having a friend post something reckless or alarming.