The average person spends over two hours a day on social media. We post about our lives, share funny memes, and tag photos of friends and family. With so much information on social media accounts nowadays, it is crucial to be aware of what you post and what consequences this may have. After all, it could be used against you in court.
About a year ago, we wrote this blog: Can Social Media Be Used as Evidence in a Criminal Case? We discussed the ways social media can be used against or for defendants in criminal court. We talked about when this evidence may be admissible and when it may directly or indirectly affect a case.
Today, we’ll look at some real-life examples of civil and criminal cases where social media evidence played a role and impacted the outcome. Our goal with this blog is to show just how meaningful photos, messages, and even logins can be—and why you need to be aware of what’s going on with your social media accounts at all times.
Defendant Cleared with Facebook Status Update Alibi
After being arrested for a mugging in New York, a teenage defendant was cleared when his father presented the district attorney with evidence that his son had updated his Facebook status just 1 minute before the mugging took place—from his apartment that was 12 miles away.
Unfortunately, the teen had already spent nearly two weeks in jail before his father discovered the Facebook status update and took action. After the teen’s father approached the district attorney with the evidence, the district attorney subpoenaed Facebook to verify the location of the status update. Charges were dropped.
Worker Denied Benefits After Posting on Facebook
In Zimmerman v. Weis Markets, Inc., a worker who was injured on the job saw his benefits jeopardized after his employer saw photographs on social media accounts that showed him partaking in various activities he had claimed he could no longer enjoy because of his severe injuries. The worker had claimed that he was left suffering from permanent and severe harm, but the photos proved otherwise.
Vehicular Manslaughter Sentence Enhanced Due to Myspace Evidence
In Hoffman v. State, an 18-year-old woman faced an enhanced sentence for vehicular manslaughter after the prosecuting attorney introduced social media evidence that included comments and photos that glamorized alcohol abuse. At the sentencing hearing, the Superior Court judge presiding over the case described the social media evidence as a “devastating insult to [the victim’s] family in some of the obscenities and pictures.”
The defendant appealed the enhanced sentence, claiming she had posted the pictures prior to the accident. The court reduced her nine-year sentence by one year but still held her accountable because she did not take the photos down after the accident and the victim’s family saw them as a result.
Other Examples of Social Media Used in Criminal Cases
There are countless other cases where Facebook and other social media platforms played integral roles in criminal cases. In some situations, the use of social media itself can result in criminal charges. An example may be a person who allegedly identifies and lures minors to engage in sexual activity through Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms. Another example may be a person who is arrested for violating the terms of his or her probation by using social media sites. Yet another may be an individual who is accused of using social media to sell illegal drugs.
If you have been arrested for or charged with any crime and social media evidence is involved, you need a legal team with experience in these complex matters. At Thomas & Paulk, P.A., we’ve helped thousands of Floridians in the face of virtually every type of criminal charge, from first-time DUI offenses to grand larceny and all the way to murder.
To find out more, call (813) 321-7323. Your consultation is free and confidential.