It goes without saying that if posts you’ve made on your various social media accounts help prosecutors build a case against you, they’re going to want to use them. You can bet that law enforcement has done everything in its power to review your social media accounts, looking for that evidence.
You’d be surprised what they’ve used, too. We’ve seen items of clothing incriminate people in major crimes before. Social media has been used in everything from DWI cases to murder investigations.
This is usually all too easy as many people don’t keep their information particularly private to begin with. We recommend most people check their privacy settings and ensure most of their posts aren’t available to the general public.
We always advise clients to stay off social media when involved in a criminal case. Nevertheless, simply staying off social media does not guarantee that it won’t be a factor in your case.
Can law enforcement get social media companies to turn over private information?
Social media companies are often quite willing to share information with prosecutors in a criminal case. They usually aren’t so friendly to the defense.
Nevertheless, law enforcement must meet certain criteria in order to get private information. They must generally show there is sufficient likelihood that there will be relevant information to find.
If they’re looking at public information, they may seek proof of ownership to prove the account is yours and not someone else’s, a move they will make in order to prevent defense lawyers like us from using that particular defense.
They must also follow the law when accessing your account. They can’t assume your identity, create a fake account, or hack into your accounts to gain the information. If they do, they may themselves be breaking the law, and as your defense attorneys we can certainly use such behavior to have any relevant evidence suppressed.
Should I delete all my social media posts?
No. What’s already out there is out there.
If you try to delete content you may be accused of tampering with the evidence, which can lead to additional criminal charges. You can be charged with tampering with the evidence even if you are acquitted for the original crime.
In fact, law enforcement may present social media companies with preservation requests to “snapshot” certain content at certain times specifically to make sure they can get your information before you delete it. They have to obtain a warrant to do so, of course, but once you’ve been charged this generally won’t be very hard.
Do social media posts ever help the defense?
Of course. We’ve found exculpatory evidence in all sorts of cases.
In fact, we recommend sharing your social accounts with us so we can search for any evidence which might help.
For example, if the prosecution is complaining you are at Location A at Time A and we can show you were at Location B at that same time simply by pulling up a time and date stamped photo, then we have a great alibi for you.
You should also tell us if you are “friends” with any of the witnesses, as their own social media accounts could provide interesting information as well.
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