What you post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on any other social media can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Reviewing Social Media is Standard Operating Procedure for Law Enforcement
If you have been charged with a crime, or if police are conducting a pre-file investigation, they will scour the Internet for evidence they can use to get a conviction. Pictures, videos, status updates on social media can provide law enforcement with critical and often damning information, and they know it. A November 2014 report by LexisNexis found that eight out of every 10 law enforcement professionals (81%) actively use social media as a tool in investigations.
Who needs a stakeout or an army of detectives out in the streets when incriminating evidence can be found with just a few clicks?
Think about what you post on social media and the information that police can obtain just from looking at your posts or even those of your friends. They can learn:
- Where you were
- What you were doing
- Who you were with
- The identity of potential witnesses or accomplices
- Background information on you that they can use against you
Privacy Settings Are No Help
If you think you can post anything you want because your privacy settings will keep out investigators' prying eyes, think again. Courts have ruled that social media posts are not private regardless of the poster's privacy settings. In fact, police can create false identities and try to “friend” you or get one of you friends to cooperate with them and give them access to your posts.
For example, in one case (U.S. v. Meregildo, 883 F.Supp.2d 523 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)) prosecutors successfully obtained and used incriminating Facebook posts against a defendant after they had one of the defendant's Facebook “friends” give them access to his wall.
The defendant claimed that the police violated his 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search, but the court disagreed and held that:
“[The Defendant's] legitimate expectation of privacy ended when he disseminated posts to his “friends” because those “friends” were free to use the information however they wanted—including sharing it with the Government.”
Even if law enforcement can't get past your privacy settings through a cooperating ‘'friend,” they can and will subpoena or obtain search warrants necessary to get Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and any other social media platform to provide them with the information they are seeking, regardless of your privacy settings.
Given that your social media posts can be powerful evidence against you in a criminal case, you should be extremely careful what you share on the Internet. Certainly, if you have committed a crime, you shouldn't post pictures of yourself on Facebook boasting about it. If you have questions about your social media use and your criminal case, please give one of our experienced Nevada criminal defense attorneys a call. (See our related article, When can I use other people's photographs on my social media?)