Tagging Someone On Social Media Could Land You In Jail

For some people, interacting with others on social media is as natural and necessary as breathing air. While tagging photos and sending messages to people can be fun, it can land you in jail if you send it to the wrong person. Namely, if someone has a no-contact order against you, tagging them or using the individual's name in a message could be seen as a violation of the restraining order. Here's more information about this issue.

Recent Court Decision Changes the Landscape

A restraining order is designed to prevent one party from having contact with another party. How much a judge restricts the defendant's ability to contact the complainant depends on the circumstances of the case. In domestic violence situations, the judge may only order the defendant to not have any physical contact with the plaintiff, but still allow the individual to call or email the person for specific purposes (e.g. discuss the welfare of children).

In no-contact orders, the defendant is completely barred from having any type of direct communication with the complainant, which typically means the person cannot call, write, text, email, or send personal messages (among other things) to the individual at all. However, a decision in a New York case has added social media tagging to the list.

In this case, a woman was under a no-contact order that prohibited her from communicating with her former sister-in-law. However, on two separate occasions, the woman tagged the complainant in social media posts she wrote on her profile. The judge in the case ruled that this was a violation the no-contact order that was in place, stating that tagging was the same as having direct communication with the complainant.

To be fair, it's likely the content of the messages may have influenced the judge's ruling, as at least one of the notes seemed to be written directly to the person who took out the protection order. Depending on the situation, however, any type of social media tagging that result in adverse or harassing communication with the petitioner could be flagged as a violation of a no-contact order, regardless of any content that may be attached.

Defending Against Violation Claims

Violating a restraining order is a serious offense and can result in more serious charges being levied against the person, fines, and jail time. If you find yourself being hauled into court because of poke, tag, or tweet on social media, there are a couple of ways you could defend yourself and possibly avoid prosecution.

The first way is to show the tagging was not intentional. Although developers try to make social media sites easy to use, it's still possible to make a mistake that leads to an outcome you didn't want. For instance, some sites will attempt to automatically insert a link to someone's social media profile on the site if you happen to mention the individual by name in a post. This, in turn, will send a notification to the individual that he or she was mentioned in a post. If you're not paying attention, this could easily lead you to accidentally tagging the person when you didn't want or mean to. If it only happened one time, then you may be able to convince a judge that the tag was an error.

Another defense is lack of knowledge. If you had not been notified you were under a no-contact order when the incident took place, then you could argue you didn't know you weren't allowed to communicate with the complainant at that time. A third option is to challenge the legality of the no-contact order. To prevail here, you would have to show the order was issued for an unlawful purpose or the basis for the order was false.

For instance, if the person got the restraining order by claiming you harassed him or her, you could get the order overturned altogether by presenting evidence disputing the accusation.

For more information about protection orders or assistance with defending against violation claims in court, contact a criminal law attorney like O'Brien & Dekker.