Can Social Media Be Used as Evidence in a Criminal Case?

Social media has become a pervasive part of society, and even with some backlash over privacy concerns, most people still use at least one social media platform. However, just as most people use social media, so do most law enforcement officers. However, it is not just for their private use, they can also use social media to gather evidence to build criminal cases against you.

Social media can be used both to build a criminal case against you and help your defense. However, the truly unfortunate issue is that defense attorneys are under more restrictions than law enforcement officers because of ethical boundaries.

For law enforcement officers that are building a case, they can do a wide array of activities on social media to do so. These include:

  • Using social media to gain the public’s help to identify suspects
  • Creating fake profiles in order to gain access to a suspect’s private profile or those of friends and family
  • Using social media to uncover details of a crime, witnesses, or co-conspirators

In order for officers to directly search a private profile, including private messages, they must first obtain a warrant to do so. However, Fourth Amendment search rights are a little foggy when it comes to social media, especially when law enforcement uses another’s profile to view your own. Typically, when officers believe a suspect’s social media to have crucial evidence, they will obtain a warrant to preserve the admissibility of the evidence.

Alternatively, if you believe that social media content can help defend your case, you may run into more roadblocks. Criminal defense attorneys can look through public profiles in order to find witnesses or catch a victim’s lie, but they cannot, unlike police, friend the person or create a fake profile in order to gain information.

The major takeaway here is to always have your social media profiles set to private even if you do not think you are posting pertinent information. However, if you have gotten in trouble and believe your social media may hurt your case, contact us today. We can help defend you against the potential criminal punishments and make sure your Fourth Amendment rights are preserved.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.