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  1. #1

    Default Can You Be Criminally Investigated for Posts You Make Online

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: California

    My friend is an aspiring lawyer and for the last 2 months has been trying to help other people. Pretty much he is on an app where he has created a chat room called Legal Lurkers in which he attempts to answer people's legal advice, kind of like you guys do on here. When he doesn't know the question he posts them online on forums such as this to see what other people think. For instance he has asked questions about immigration, domestic violence, international crimes, bankruptcy, issues with excessive force by police, sexting minors among many others.

    However, the thing is when he posts questions he is unable to answer on forums he asks them in a first person perspective so it seems like the question pertains to him. He just copies and pastes the question that was sent to him in the chat group onto the forum. He was just wondering if law enforcement can start an investigation against him for some of the things he posted? No, nothing was really that terrible, but he has posted a total of about 20 times so far on forums such as this and other law forums as well. However, some of the responses to some of his posts were distasteful and acting like he was at fault and he was scared that people might report him. 95% of the time people on the forums provided constructive advice that he was able to use and give to people in his group chat. I told him he was being way too paranoid and he should stop this group chat thing if he can't handle it.

    Personally, I told him to forget about, stop doing it if he can't handle it, and go to therapy if he can't stop worrying about it because nothing will happen. I told him that the cops don't look into this type of stuff because any Tom, Dick, and Harry could post any nonsense on the internet to troll with people which I am sure a number of the posts here are. What do you all think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    8,238

    Default Re: Wrong

    I think his posting in the first person is unlikely to get him in trouble. Not seeing exactly what he has done, however, I cannot guarantee he won’t later have problems over it. He would do better to avoid posting in first person. I realize that cutting and pasting the queries he gets is the easiest thing to, but unless the questions are rather long it shouldn't take much effort to rewrite them in third person.

    However, providing specific legal advice to others on that app he created when he is not an attorney could cause him problems if it amounts to the unauthorized practice of law. Among those consequences could include derailing his dream of being a lawyer. I suggest he see a California lawyer about what he is doing for advice on how to do it in a way that will not violate the rules against the unauthorized practice of law.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Wrong

    Thanks for the swift reply!

    In terms of legal advice I guess it is kind of similar to what you guys do on here. In terms of what he exactly does, he refers people to the appropriate penal codes and such for their reference. He doesn't explicitly tell them what to do.

    Sometimes he is unable to answer people's questions based on his own knowledge so he asks them on forums. However, sometimes he gets some crappy stuff sent back at him when he posts stuff on forums.

    Some posts he makes are very similar to these ones I found on your guy's forum:
    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=227559
    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=228226
    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=228619

    Do you think this is going to be a problem?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Posts
    1,131

    Default Re: Wrong

    Similar is not the same. Your question was answered.

    Your friend may or may not end up in trouble.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Wrong

    It pretty much is the same. You guys here post direct advice/suggestions for people telling them what you think they should do and evaluate whether you guys think something is/is not a crime based on written laws. My friend looks up laws, sends people those laws and then tells them whether he thinks it is likely they can pursue charges/are guilty of an offense. He then tells them that further questions should be answered by a licensed attorney/by law enforcement. Isn't that what you guys do here or am I missing something?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Wrong

    Here's one difference.

    Often when responding to posts here, we need to ask for additional information, which can make the difference to the answer; If x, the answer is a, but if y, the answer is b. Your friend would not be in a position to ask those additional questions or provide the needed information, and as such, by posting as if he were someone else to get an answer to give someone else, there's a greater than average chance that the information he provides is going to be wrong.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Wrong

    Thank you cbg. That makes a lot of sense now.

    Great example!!!

    I will definitely show him what you said. I told him that its not a good idea but luckily a lot of things have been minor and nothing has really happened. That is why I wanted to ask before anything major really happened.

    For instance, there was a lady he consulted who said she was assaulted by a coworker. He simply showed her certain penal codes in her state and told her to report her incident to law enforcement and consult with a licensed attorney beforehand.

    Before I take leave here, one last thing I was wondering was if he can get in trouble for posting his questions in the first person on forums. Nothing has really been that flagrant. But when he copies and pastes peoples questions to places like here it seems like he was the one who committed the crime/was the victim. He is just worried law enforcement can start investigations based on these forum posts alone. I think he is just being paranoid right?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Wrong

    Wrong. There have been people who have been convicted based on what they posted in these forums.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Wrong

    Oh so they have been convicted solely based on these posts here?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Somewhere near Canada
    Posts
    35,894

    Default Re: Wrong

    Quote Quoting justicemaker21
    View Post
    Oh so they have been convicted solely based on these posts here?
    I can think of at least 3 instances where posts in the family law section here and elsewhere have been used against the poster in family court.

    (I realize that family court is very different from criminal court but the point remains)

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