A Washington Defense Lawyer’s Perspective on Defending People Accused of Internet Misconduct
Just as internet misconduct takes on many different forms, so too does the possible ways to defend oneself from accusations. You cannot simply ignore an accusation and hope it goes away, especially if it is false. It is important to have experienced criminal defense lawyers who are also familiar and regularly fight civil protection orders and criminal accusations in these kinds of cases because they can spiral out of control. If you receive notice of a court hearing, think you may be contacted by the police or are contacted by the police, you need to consult with an attorney immediately so you understand what is going on and what your options are. If the police are contacting you, read our section on giving statements in criminal investigations as any time you speak with a police officer, you should consider your options before acting.
Initially, it is important to determine whether the accusations are civil, criminal, or both in nature. Knowing this key distinction will help you know what your potential exposure. Determining whether the accusations can be criminal or civil tells you whether you are facing a case against the police and government (criminal charge) or whether you are facing the alleged victim and possibly his or her attorney (civil case). The two different types of cases also mean a difference in burden of proof. If you are facing a criminal charge, the government prosecuting attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt you committed the crime (the highest proof threshold there is.) On the other hand, the burden of proof in a civil case is a preponderance of the evidence – meaning, more likely than not (think 50.1%). Obviously, this is a much easier proof requirement for an accuser to meet. It is not always readily apparent that a case is civil or criminal and just because a civil protection order is sought, it does not mean a criminal case cannot follow. Considering which direction the case is going to go is what the lawyers in our office do as our experience includes litigating hundreds of protection order cases, some of which go criminal and some of which stay civil and some of which go both criminal and civil. A key to knowing what will happen is whether a police officer is involved or becomes involved in investigating the facts and what exactly those facts are. Our lawyers can and do regularly speak with investigating officers when the facts warrant doing so.
From a civil and criminal defense attorney’s prospective, another important aspect often arising in internet misconduct cases is technology. Familiarity with technology is especially important when the identity of who was the source of the abuse is or can be disputed. Technology is rapidly changing and it is important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable on the topic and knows how to fight accusations and issues with proof. Texts and emails can be spoofed: as easily as using an app now. A simple search produces informative websites on how to spoof texts as well as emails. Making sure the court is educated to this point can be very important, especially if you can explain in a credible way why someone else would or did do this.
It is absolutely essential to contact an attorney immediately when being accused of any form of internet misconduct. The second you begin to make statements about the allegations to others, including the police, it becomes very difficult to change them. Also, if an officer begins his investigation finding one party credible, any voluntary statements will be filtered through this bias resulting and can result in your statement being written down incorrectly. An attorney will help protect you from others as well as from yourself. Whether you are facing a criminal charge or a civil allegation, the government | accuser will have to prove you were the source of misconduct. Their job of proving that is very easy if you have made a statement admitting to it or confirming enough facts for them to seek a warrant. Hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with civil experience in protection orders immediately is the first step to preventing false accusations or mitigating a case. This protection is especially important when there is a civil case and a criminal case. Having an attorney can help protect you from making statements in your civil case which will then incriminate you in your criminal case.
If the police would like to speak with you or you just received notice of a court hearing, contact the Rhodes Legal Group immediately. Our office has decades of combined legal experience handling both criminal and civil harassment cases, including those involving the internet. It is extremely important to have an attorney helping you at the beginning before opportunities for a favorable resolution have already come and gone. Email is or call 206-708-7852 to set an appointment.