What you look at, share, send, and store on your social media platforms is yours and yours alone—right? When it comes to access by law enforcement, the reality is more complicated.

For starters, it’s important to realize that court cases have accessed data from computers, smart phones, messages, videos, and more. The courts haven’t established a clear line of precedent in order to help law enforcement either.

But law enforcement has requested everything from photographs to medical records through the process of discovery. Discovery is when law enforcement tries to gather information related to a trial to help support their client. What you post on social media may, in fact, be relevant and requested if it’s related to a case.

Right now, what’s expected from courts is a balance between the expectation of privacy and the need to support a case, particularly when it’s specific. This graphic points out some of the key aspects of social media information related to court cases.

The Irony of Privacy Settings: Can Lawyers Use Social Media Posts in a Court of Law?

The Irony of Privacy Settings: Can Lawyers Use Social Media Posts in a Court of Law?

As someone that has been in a courtroom with many emails and posts from social media sites, I will tell you firsthand, pause before you send anything is a habit you must learn. There is no joy in any court proceedings, whether you are victorious, as I was, or the defendant — the emotional toll it takes on a person is tremendous. Use your cyber-smarts, if you don’t feel good about an email, text, post, or comment — don’t hit send. Wait 24-hours, it’s worth it. No one wants a process-server at their door.

Also read Third Parent’s advice for teens on this topic.