“I Just Admitted Online to Kidnapping the Lindbergh Baby. That’s Confidential…Isn’t It?”

May 18, 2016

I’m a member of the attorney referral service, Avvo (www.Avvo.com – take a look a my profile, https://www.avvo.com/attorneys/12601-ny-todd-carpenter-1223354.html).  Maybe you’ve seen their commercials, some of them are pretty entertaining.  The purpose of sites like Avvo is to connect people in need of legal help with an attorney in their area.  It also allows people to post questions concerning their particular legal matter in a public forum where attorneys can respond with answers to those questions. It’s a good concept, and people definitely take advantage of it.  I have certainly answered a fair share of questions.

But here’s the rub, and it’s critical that everyone keep this in mind when using one of these services…it’s PUBLIC!

Ok, so you may need to create an account to log in, post your questions and access the responses to interact with the attorneys.  But that does NOT mean that your questions are private in any way.  Anyone with an Avvo account can log in and scroll through the questions and answers….even law enforcement personnel.  Get what I’m saying?

And just because attorneys are answering your questions does not mean that an attorney-client relationship is created between you and the attorney (or more likely, the ten attorneys) who answered your question.  What’s my point? This: a PUBLIC forum and NO attorney-client privilege means that NOTHING YOU TYPE IS CONFIDENTIAL or protected or otherwise unable to hurt you!!!!

I’ve seen people literally admit to committing a crime in their questions. Ok, so your name isn’t posted in the question.  But your location is.  And since law enforcement can figure out 90% of your daily activity just by dumping and/or pinging your cell phone these days, is it really that much of a stretch to think they can’t figure out your IP address, or maybe even subpoena Avvo if it’s serious enough?

The internet is a wonderful thing with the quick and free dissemination of more information that we know what to do with.  But that speed and ease has come at a price; it has eroded our sense of privacy, our ability to actually interact face to face, and destroyed any semblance of basic common sense.  Now, I’m not supposed to render legal advice in a blog article so consider this more of a friendly reminder: THINK before you post anything about a possible crime or other legal matter on Avvo, Facebook, Instragram, Snapchat or any other social media or referral service.  Thankfully, Avvo won’t let you upload a video or selfie of you actually in the process of driving while intoxicated (something I will NEVER understand, btw), but putting in writing what basically amounts to a confession – or something that can be interpreted that way – may actually be even worse for your defense.

The attorneys on Avvo and similar sites are happy to help you and answer your legal questions as best as we can.  But we don’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot just to get some canned answer from us (because that’s really the best we can do on these sites).  So if you’re going to go on in the web looking for legal advice – particularly if it’s criminally related, before you hit “send” ask yourself if what you’re typing is something you really want the whole world to read.  My guess is probably not.  Keep your questions general.  Admit to nothing.  Or better yet, don’t even risk it!  Just pick up the phone and call a local attorney to discuss your case personally and CONFIDENTIALLY!!!  I provide free criminal consultations as a rule.  I’m sure I’m not the only one. Give a shot! You may actually enjoy human interaction!