With millions of users posting to social media accounts every day, it is no wonder that law enforcement is using information from these sites to identify suspects and solve crimes. Social media sites are considered to be in the public sphere, so in many instances, police do not need to get warrants and other legal protections to see the information that is being posted on these accounts. In some cases, even subtle status updates or unclear pictures can be enough to argue someone's guilt.
How can social media be used by the prosecution?
On many social networking sites, there are ways to download all of a person's information with just the click of a mouse. This includes archives of posts, messages, photos, and even the ads the user as clicked. Other companies can be employed to truly get the range of information that can be stored on a social media account.
Since social media is still relatively new in relation to the legal system, there are some instances where the courts may struggle with the use of social media in a case. However there are many ways that the court will see the application of social media as basic discovery of evidence.
Social media can be used in court due to the following:
- Anything posted, shared, or messaged on social media has no reasonable expectation of privacy as defined by the courts; and
- Any part of the social media account that is made publicly available can be used to prove that additional information exists.
In short, social media evidence is admissible in court since even if the information is shared with only a select number of friends, it does not mean that there was a reasonable degree of expectation that the information was meant to be private.
Social media evidence can be accessed directly, using in-camera review, for the attorney's eyes only, or through a third-party subpoena. If any of these methods are used, the prosecution may have a strong case against a defendant. That is why having a criminal defense lawyer on your side to fight back is so important.