Can Police Prosecute You Based on Social Media Evidence?

Social MediaDo you have a Facebook account? How about Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat? Whether you’re addicted to social media and share every significant and insignificant detail of your life, or just log on occasionally, if you’re at all active on any of these sites then you need to be aware that they are more than just a hobby or fun way to communicate with friends. If you’ve been accused of committing a property crime, the things that you post are a window into your activities and can be used as evidence against you by the police.

Imagine a bunch of teens vandalizing a property or slashing car tires on a city street. Like all of today’s youth, there’s no doubt that at least a few of them would take photos or videos of their activities, posting them to social media in order to share their antics with friends. Though they may think their social media accounts are only seen by their peers, they are wrong. There is nothing private about social media when it comes to law enforcement.

The police have the right to use social media platforms in a variety of ways. They can use photos they find online and show them to witnesses to help identify perpetrators. They can create fake accounts to view comments and photos on a private account’s timeline: even accounts that are shielded from prying eyes through their privacy settings are generally vulnerable, though a warrant subpoena or court order may be necessary for the police to access them. The police can also use their own increasingly popular Facebook and Twitter accounts to post security video or photos of suspects, enlisting the public in catching those responsible for property damage and other crimes.

The flip side of these social media vulnerabilities is that defendants who claim innocence can use them to provide exonerating information if photos supporting their alibis exist. They can also search other people’s social media accounts to see whether they find any evidence pointing to other people’s guilt, though defense attorneys do not have the same freedom to set up a fake account that the police do.

If you’ve been accused of committing a property crime and the police have indicated that their case is reliant on social media, you need an attorney with extensive criminal defense experience to provide you with a strategic defense. To learn more, contact us today