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How a Gag Order Can Affect Social Media Usage

Last week's blog post talked about what a gag order is and three important things you need to know about them. As a refresher, a gag order is put into place by a judge restricting the parties involved from talking about the case outside of the courtroom in an effort to keep the information away from the media in order to ensure a fair trial. One way to violate a gag order is to post case details or to talk about people involved in the case on social media.

Social media is used by billions of people daily, in fact it's how 68% of Americans get their news. Social media is an outlet for self-expression and sharing what's going on in ones life, but when there's a gag order involved there are certain details that just aren't allowed to be shared.

In the recent case of ex-presidential advisor, Roger Stone, a gag order was placed on him by Judge Amy Berman Jackson while he awaits trial this coming November. He is being accused of using social media to allegedly speak about the case. According to the an article by the National Law Journal, "Prosecutors accused Stone of violating Jackson's gag order by making statements on Instagram and Facebook about the special counsel's investigation. The posts were aimed at national media by tagging publications like The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Wall Street Journal." By doing so he is putting his ability to be out on bail at risk.

Is A Gag Order a Violation of the First Amendment?

Many argue that gag orders are a violation of one's right to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. A person's social media is their free space to express or share whatever information they feel comfortable showing the public, or their personal followers if their page happens to be private. When a gag order is set, these freedoms become limited, as case details become legally unable to be shared.

Before a gag order can be put into place, a hearing must be held where the nature of the case and type of information that could be published is considered. Other less restrictive options are considered and a gag order is usually the last resort and is only used if it seems clear that it would be effective in preventing an unfair trial. If a gag order is deemed to be unconstitutional, it's up to the ordering judge to lift of modify the order so that it is considered fair and within the proper guidelines.

What Happens When You Violate a Gag Order?

When you violate a gag order you're putting yourself at risk for stricter gag orders, jail time, fines, or the revoking of bail if you're currently out on bail awaiting trial.

If you or someone you know are being charged with a crime and have been placed under a gag order, it's best to make sure the order is followed. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to help guide you through the process is a wise choice. Give Russell Spatz a call today at (305) 442-0200 to see how he can help you with your case.

References:

Robson, Nate. "Roger Stone 'Continues to Fan the Flames' Despite Gag Order, Prosecutors Say." National Law Journal, 20 June 2019, www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2019/06/20/roger-stone-continues-to-fan-the-flames-despite-gag-order-prosecutors-say/.

Zantal-Wiener, Amanda. "68% Of Americans Still Get Their News on Social Media, Even If They Don't Trust It." HubSpot, HubSpot, 14 Dec. 2018, blog.hubspot.com/news-trends/two-thirds-americans-still-get-news-on-social-media.

"Gag Orders." Freedom Forum Institute, www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-the-press/gag-orders/.

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