Electronic evidence is used in many divorce cases.

Some of us assume that our online lives and our real-world ones are two distinct entities, and many act in a way that reinforces the distinctions between the two. A shy, reserved person in real life could secretly be a foul-mouthed bully online. A seemingly loving spouse could be leading a double life with multiple electronic affairs (one or more of which eventually becomes a reality).

Our online personas and activities are never really very far away from impacting our day-to-day lives, particularly when it comes to a divorce or family law dispute. All manner of electronic evidence, including the following, are increasingly common in family court cases:

  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Social network and media posts (on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, as well as business sites like LinkedIn or Indeed)
  • Digital photos
  • “Check-ins” at various locations
  • GPS and telephone location data
  • “Tagged” posts and photographs posted by other people

How the two interact

If you have claimed a lack of funds to fight alimony payments requested by your spouse, but your new love interest has posted photographs of fancy presents and expensive vacations, your credibility with the court could be seriously affected. If you are seeking primary custody of the children, but friends regularly “tag” you in photos where you are out at all hours, the judge might find that it is not in the children’s best interests to live with you. Status updates where you bash your spouse or blast the court proceedings can – and will – be easily discovered by the opposition. These will have a negative impact on your case.

What to do

This isn’t to say that you have to resort to a landline or “snail mail” and go on a digital “strike” until your divorce is resolved (though some experts do recommend that). You can continue to use social media and electronic communications provided you do it in a responsible manner. A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t say it in front of a judge, you probably shouldn’t post it online, send it via email or write it in a text message.

It is possible to limit the potentially negative impact of electronic evidence and communications. You should:

  • Check your privacy settings – these aren’t foolproof, but they can at least make it more difficult for your online life to become public
  • Not accept any new “friend requests” or add to your social networks while your case is pending
  • Tell loved ones not to “tag” you in photos, posts or “check-ins”
  • Consider severing ties with mutual online links between you and your spouse, at least until the case is resolved
  • Not use social media as a platform to discuss the case in any way – especially don’t disparage your spouse, say anything about the judge or discuss your attorney’s case strategy

One more thing: Never access your spouse’s social media accounts without their permission, as tempting as it may be. This could not only violate social networking sites’ terms of use, it might even be illegal depending on the circumstances, so evidence you gather might not even be admissible. It isn’t worth the risk to your case or your reputation.

In spite of these warnings and admonitions, it is possible to safely navigate social media during a divorce. You will, however, need the guidance and help of a trained family law attorney to do so. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer at the Fayetteville office of the Hogue Law Firm, PLLC online or by calling 866-649-6167.

A new Arkansas law will help parolees and probationers who commit minor violations avoid prison.

In recent years, Arkansas has suffered from one of the fastest growing prison populations in the country. The booming prison population was largely the result of strict parole-violation laws that resulted in many people on parole or probation getting sent back to prison due to minor violations. Now, as the Arkansas Times reports, the state has passed an important criminal justice reform bill that will help keep those who commit minor parole and probation violations out of prison.

Why Arkansas had such tough parole laws

Often, just one high-profile case is enough to change the laws in a way to make them more punitive, if not always more effective at fighting crime. In 2013, for example, the murder of a teenage girl in Little Rock by a man who had multiple parole violations led to a crackdown on parole and probation violators. As a result, even minor parole and probation violations could lead to those violators being sent back to prison.

While many people understandably think that longer and harsher prison sentences help reduce crime, the opposite is in fact true. All that was achieved by the tougher rules was an exploding prison population that has become more expensive for Arkansan taxpayers to support.

Reforming parole laws

As a result, early in 2017 the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 423, “The Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act.” The new law allows for parolees and probationers who commit only minor violations, such as missing a drug rehab meeting, to be sent for 45 to 180 days to an Arkansas Community Correction facility instead of being sent back to prison. The law helps ensure that minor violators get access to rehabilitation programs while also freeing up space in Arkansas’ overcrowded prisons.

As U.S. News & World Report notes, the Arkansas Board of Corrections later clarified the new probation and parole rules. While the Board of Corrections will have the final say on where each offender goes, the Board’s guidelines specify that those who fail a drug test or commit specified minor misdemeanors should be sent to Community Correction Facilities instead of prison. However, violators who are considered a “threat to the community,” such as those with a history of assaulting officers or fellow inmates, will not be eligible for being sent to Community Correction Facilities.

Criminal defense help

Arkansas has some of the toughest criminal laws in the country, even with the reforms described above now in place. That’s why anybody who has been charged with an offense needs to talk to a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients uphold their rights and help them fight to maintain their freedom.

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