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Restraining Orders and Social Media

Social media may be one of the defining aspects of the last decade. Websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter connect everything about our lives. This includes the products we buy, places we go, food we eat, and even the news we read. Today many businesses attempt to maintain some social media presence, but in fact it is almost imperative that they do, since so many people gain their information online. One of the most attractive parts of social media is its ability to connect multiple people over any distance. However, this same convenience can also be detrimental to the end user if a court limits the amount of contact.

Social Media Mishaps

Previously this blog has discussed the consequences of violating an order of the court. Violation of a protective order is considered criminal contempt in the first degree in New York, with punishments of up to $5,000 and/or four years in prison. Typically no contact orders mean no contact whatsoever. The notion of no contact has shifted with the advent of social media, which encourages constant contact with individuals. Recently Newsweek reported on a Manhattan judge ruling that Nicholas Lemons violated a restraining order by following a protected person on Instagram. The order signed by the judge originally contemplated electronic contact, however it was not specific as to instagram. The judge reasoned though that, although there was no direct contact, the situation was as if Lemons asked Siri to call the complainant, as opposed to dialing the number himself. Lemons’ attorney argues that the difference between the two scenarios is that his client did not intend to contact the protected party.

In January 2016, CNET reported on Maria Gonzalez, who used Facebook to intentionally violate the court order, which ordered her not to contact her sister-in-law. Gonzalez wrote a facebook post calling the complainant “stupid,” and then tagged her in it. Although this act was intentional, Gonzalez’ attorney stated that communication via Facebook was not contemplated in the court order. However, the judge ruling on the case disagreed, and felt Facebook communication fell under the umbrella of electronic communication. Gonzalez was then faced with charges of second degree contempt of court.

Potential for Unintentional Violations

These violations are nothing new though. In 2013, Salem News reported on a man who allegedly violated a no contact order when a notification from his Google Plus account invited the subject of the protection order to join his “circle.”  The man claimed that he was not very familiar with Google Plus and that he was not sure how an invitation was sent to his former girlfriend.

Technology is constantly changing. Although this is usually a good thing, if you or a loved one are being restricted by a restraining order then technology could be a problem. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with the technology. In many instances, the messages sent by your social media accounts may be automated and could be sent without your ever knowing. This is important if the court order makes it a violation in the event that you intentionally disobey it. An experienced criminal law attorney will be able to analyze your case and help you build a defense for your contempt claim. This is why you should hire a licensed criminal law attorney like Phillip J. Murphy. Phillip J. Murphy is licensed to practice in New York and has been practicing law since 1989. Contact us today to discuss your options.

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