Can Police Prosecute You Based on Social Media Evidence? (2023)

Can Police Prosecute You Based on Social Media Evidence?

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Can Police Prosecute You Based on Social Media Evidence? (1)Do 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.

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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.

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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

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Can social media posts be used as evidence in court? ›

Yes, in many cases, your social media posts can be used as evidence against you in a criminal case. However, there are ways to protect yourself. Limiting what you post could prevent the prosecutor from finding incriminating content.

Can I use Facebook messages as evidence in court? ›

Like social media posts and other forms of digital communication, text messages can be used as evidence in court and can be instrumental in the outcome of both criminal and civil cases.

Is social media a evidence? ›

Both public and private information on a social media account may be admissible. Admissibility of evidence depends on several factors, including the relevance of the evidence to the case at hand and its authenticity. To be admissible in court, social media evidence must first be authenticated directly.

How is social media used in law enforcement investigations? ›

Social media forensics involves the collection, analysis, and storage of information, photos, videos, and other electronic evidence that are publicly available from social media sources for purposes of locating criminals.

What happens if you post evidence on social media? ›

If a social media post or comment wrecks a criminal trial, the poster could be charged with contempt of court.

What is social media evidence examples? ›

Social media evidence is data stored on a social media platform required to support or prove a relevant fact during an investigation or court proceeding. For example, a Facebook update can provide time, date, and location information, possibly helping to support an alibi in court.

Is messages enough evidence to convict? ›

Once a text message has been sent, it can swing a case. Text messages can often show motives to commit a crime or a person's state of mind during the time of an alleged offence. However, although text messages can be used in court as legal evidence, they aren't automatically admissible.

How does social media affect court cases? ›

They can use it to corroborate a witness or discount a suspect's statements. They may also find evidence of intent to commit a crime, which can lead to additional charges. Check-ins and online photo metadata could place you near the scene of a crime or provide evidence that will weaken your defense.

Can screenshots of text messages be used in court? ›

You can authenticate text messages by presenting: a “copy,” a screenshot, photo, or print-out of the message that includes identifying information that links the message to the texter, and. testimony or affidavit that the copy is a true and accurate representation of the text messages.

Is social media valid in court? ›

Even if your account is set to private, the content might still be used in court if the requested information is relevant to the case. When a request is made for your personal social media account, the court may order that you turn over any content that can be considered relevant to the case.

How do you admit social media into evidence? ›

Social media can be introduced using testimonial evidence as long as the witness testifying about the social media:
  1. Has personal knowledge of the social media information;
  2. Has the ability to communicate the testimony;
  3. Takes an oath or makes an affirmation to tell the truth; and.
  4. Claims to recall what they are testifying.

Are social media screenshots admissible in court? ›

Even though it might seem unusual, screenshots are admissible evidence. Yes, you can use them as legal proof, but you can't just present them and expect everything to be okay. Time and date matter a lot in a litigation process.

What do police background investigators look for in social media? ›

A social media background check is similar to other types of background checks, like criminal checks. It looks at a person's past behavior since a person's past can be indicative of a person's future behavior.

What percentage of the time does social media as evidence in search warrants hold up? ›

However, 87% of the time, social media evidence holds up in court when used for probable cause to secure a search warrant.

Can law enforcement check social media? ›

Police regularly search social media for evidence of crimes, to see who you associate with, to see if they can get you to admit to crimes.

Can I sue someone for posting lies about me on social media? ›

Defamation of Character

A Facebook post that defames the character of another person can be grounds for a lawsuit. To prove defamation of character, the victim must show that a false statement of and concerning the victim was published, caused the victim injury, and is not protected by any privilege.

Can social media be subpoenaed? ›

In these instances, it should be assumed that not only will anything posted on Facebook continue to exist in some electronic form, but also that Facebook (and other social media sites) will not hesitate to comply with criminal subpoenas.

Can you get charged for posting on social media? ›

Penal Code 653.2 states it is a crime to post about other people on the internet in a way that will cause them harm. If you, or someone you know, have been charged with this type of posting, you are facing criminal charges under the California computer crime laws.

What are types of social media crimes? ›

Crime against women through social media
  • Introduction. ...
  • Different forms of Crime against Women. ...
  • Cyber Stalking. ...
  • Cyber Pornography. ...
  • Morphing. ...
  • Sending Obscene/ Defamatory/ Annoying Messages. ...
  • Online trolling/ pulling/ blackmailing/ Threat and intimidation. ...
  • Measures to be taken to stop the Crime.
Dec 18, 2022

Is social media hearsay evidence? ›

Most of the information attorneys will seek to admit from social media websites (other than photographs) will qualify as 'out- of-court' statements potentially subject to the hearsay rule.

What is social media investigation? ›

Social media investigations involve the detailed analysis of an organisations or individual's social media accounts. They are commonly used to provide information relevant to an investigation, court case, background checks or to establish an alibi.

How well do text messages hold up in court? ›

Text messages between you and the other party are generally considered to be admissible. It must be proven in court that the phone numbers receiving or sending the texts belonged to you or the other party. This can typically be easily done.

Can someone be convicted without evidence? ›

Prosecutions with no supporting evidence and a well-represented defendant are less likely to succeed when compared with cases with significant supporting evidence, but there is always a possibility that there will be a conviction.

Can online messages be used as evidence? ›

Besides these exceptions, you can use all documentation as evidence in court. This includes: text messages; your Facebook chat messages; or.

Can the police use Facebook as evidence? ›

It is therefore clear from the case law that the use of social media to identify Defendants is admissible as evidence in criminal trials, so long as the jury is given appropriate directions by the trial judge as to the dangers of such evidence and the weight to be attached to it.

Can lawyers look at social media during a case? ›

An attorney may request permission to review an unrepresented person's private social media information, but cannot engage in dishonest or deceptive conduct to do so.

Can a lawyer talk about a case on social media? ›

If you're in the middle of a contentious court battle, you may be tempted to post about your case online, or on social media. I urge you: don't. It will only hurt you. The opposing lawyer in your case, can see anything you say, online, and use it as evidence against you in court.

How far back can police track text messages? ›

The police may obtain your opened and unopened messages that are 180 days old or older with a subpoena. But they have to let you know once they've requested this access from the provider. Law enforcement are allowed to access older, unread emails without telling you if they obtain a court order.

How do you prove a screenshot in court? ›

Under Evidence Act, the screenshots as the evidence in court, because it is part of the electronic evidence. By submitting the screenshot as evidence, the details of phone and the date in which it is taken also given in Court.

Are cell phone pictures admissible in court? ›

Like most legal matters, the answer to the question is “it depends”. There is no definitive answer as to whether cell phone video, or any evidence for that matter, is admissible in court. There are some basic rules that you can use to enhance your position, but in the end, the decision is ultimately made by the judge.

Can Facebook messages be subpoenaed? ›

Yes – a divorce lawyer can subpoena texts and Facebook messages, as well as other social media communications. Just like in a criminal case, during a divorce, content on social media can be used as evidence given that these platforms act as a form of documentation for messages, photos and even locations.

What is the best evidence rule social media? ›

Federal Rule of Evidence 1002, better known as the "best evidence rule," states that a party seeking to prove the content of a writing, recording, or photograph must produce the original unless an exception applies.

What types of information would an investigator find on social media? ›

Social media investigations can find evidence of past illegal behavior, provide evidence to support or discredit claims about education and employment, and assess whether they are likely to conduct themselves in a manner befitting your organization.

Do background investigators check social media? ›

A social media check is being implemented as part of the background investigation as another potential source of bias-relevant information and to ensure that a thorough background investigation is conducted in compliance with Government Code section 1031(d) and Commission Regulation 1953(a).

Can background checks see deleted social media? ›

No, a social media background check will not show results for deleted accounts. Though nothing is ever really gone from the Internet, you don't need to worry about your employer finding the Twitter fan account you made as a teenager.

How many times does someone check their social media? ›

Users check their social media platforms with varying frequencies. According to Asurion research, most Americans look at their phones up to 352 times daily to check email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites and apps — up from 96 times a day in 2019.

How much crime is committed on social media? ›

Complaints to police about alleged crimes linked to the use of Facebook and Twitter have increased by 780% in four years, resulting in about 650 people being charged last year, figures show.

What are the most common warrants? ›

A bench warrant is issued after someone has already been arrested and failed to appear for court.
Five different types of warrants that people ask us about often are:
  • Arrest Warrants.
  • Bench Warrants.
  • Traffic Warrants.
  • Scofflaw Warrants.
  • Search Warrants, and.
  • Death Warrants.
Nov 7, 2012

Can law enforcement see your Internet history? ›

The mandatory data retention scheme required telecommunications companies to store customer metadata for at least two years, with the information able to be accessed by law enforcement.

Can Instagram messages be traced by police? ›

Given the volume of real-time content on Instagram, some information may only be stored for a short period of time. We do not retain data for law enforcement purposes unless we receive a legally valid preservation request.

Can police look through your Instagram? ›

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.

Can social media Posting be used in legal proceedings? ›

Even if your account is set to private, the content might still be used in court if the requested information is relevant to the case. When a request is made for your personal social media account, the court may order that you turn over any content that can be considered relevant to the case.

How do you present social media evidence in court? ›

  1. Step 1: Have the exhibit marked. ...
  2. Step 2: Show the exhibit to opposing counsel. ...
  3. Step 3: Ask the court's permission to approach the witness. ...
  4. Step 4: Show the exhibit to the witness. ...
  5. Step 5:Lay the foundation for the exhibit. ...
  6. Step 6: Offer the exhibit into evidence. ...
  7. Step 7: Have the exhibit marked in evidence.

How do you get social media posts into evidence? ›

To properly introduce evidence of a social media post at trial, you must first have a printout (or download, if a video) of the webpage that depicts the social media post you seek to introduce as evidence, and the person who printed or downloaded the post must testify that the printouts accurately reflected what was on ...

Can a screenshot be used as evidence? ›

Screenshots of digital messages are regularly served as evidence in criminal cases, usually to support allegations like harassment and malicious communications. However, they can appear in any case where digital messages are capable of supporting the prosecution case.

How does social media influence court? ›

It puts a burden on the trial courts which have the duty to minimize the effects of prejudicial publicity. Continuous remarks from such social media platforms can force judges to take decisions in the favour of the media rather than what is actually demanded in the case.

Are social media posts hearsay? ›

Most of the information attorneys will seek to admit from social media websites (other than photographs) will qualify as 'out- of-court' statements potentially subject to the hearsay rule.

Is everything posted on social media public record? ›

Everything on social media is subject to public records law.

Can lawyers look at social media during trial? ›

Monitoring Social Media Use During Trial

Although attorneys cannot send “friend” or access requests to jurors' social media accounts, they can monitor those accounts during trial.


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