Could Your Miami Criminal Case Be Compromised by a Tweeting Juror? Florida Supreme Court Weighs in...

June 27, 2012 by David S. Seltzer

If you've recently been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, you might end up facing a jury trial. If that happens, what are the odds that a juror will blog, tweet or even possibly write an e-book about your case?

That scenario may sound far-fetched. But understand that we live in an era of ubiquitous social media, and many jurors have been recently caught disobeying the court's instructions forbidding the publicizing of information about cases.

According to a Reuters Legal survey from 2010, over the past decade, 90 court decisions have been challenged due to web-related juror misconduct. 50% of these instances occurred from 2008-2010, so clearly this problem is "trending."

In May, Judge José Fernandez (Miami Circuit Court) heard a challenge to a criminal conviction that stemmed from the fact that the jury foreman tweeted about the case.

A March conviction of DUI manslaughter in Florida is similarly up and in the air, thanks to one juror, who couldn't restrain himself from penning an e-book about his involvement in the trial.

According to the Florida Committee on Standard Jury Instruction in Criminal Cases, judges have an obligation to warn jurors against using "electronic devices or computers to talk about [a] case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, e-mailing, or posting information on the web..."

Those instructions were laid out back in October 2010. But apparently they weren't clear enough -- or at least so believes the Florida Supreme Court, which weighed in on the situation earlier in the month. The Court has mandated that jurors now be provided this message twice: once before instructions and once prior to deliberations.

A Florida Judicial Center survey from last year found that 6% of federal judges have noticed jurors disobeying this "no tweeting, etc" rule. When you count the unobserved instances of misconduct, the total number is likely much higher.

What All This Means for Your Miami Criminal Defense Preparation

First of all, if/when a juror misbehaves or fails to follow the court's instructions, you and your defense attorney can leverage that lapse to your advantage.

Secondly, jury trials can get incredibly complicated… and strange and unpredictable.

So while great trial preparation essential -- and you want to find a legal team that boasts the wherewithal, track record and alacrity to prepare for anything -- your lawyer must also be able to pivot and pick up on problems, like a secretly tweeting juror. Both challenges and opportunities will emerge as your case evolves.

The respected, tested team at Seltzer Law, P.A. is standing by to provide a detailed, free consultation regarding your Florida criminal matter. Learn more about us online, or call today, any time of day or night, at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-453-3333).