What To Know About Social Media Evidence And Your Criminal Case
Almost everybody has some type of social media account – if not several – these days. We’ve grown comfortable posting content from our personal lives for friends, family, and complete strangers to see. This can be fun and engaging, and help keep people connected across long distances. As people continue to communicate and share their lives on social media, information that was once private is now public for all to see.
As a result, social media posts can create serious privacy concerns and other issues. These issues include legal problems due to social media posts. The fact of the matter is that our posts aren’t always as “private” as we think they are. Pictures from our homes, from parties or events, or pictures a person is tagged in can include incriminating activities, drug and alcohol use, or location information that can be used against them in a pending criminal case.
Can Social Media be “Evidence” in a Criminal Case?
The short answer is yes. Social media evidence is now commonly used in criminal trials, and can often be authenticated in court over a defendant’s objection. In fact, social media posts and tags can be incredibly useful for prosecutors, as they tend to show a defendant’s frame of mind and activities at a given point in time. They can help tell the story of what happened on a certain day, what a person was doing, or who they were with. Social media posts indicating drug use, alcohol use, or possession of a weapon can create serious problems for a person with a pending case or probation terms.
What types of social media can be used in a criminal trial?
- Photos of a defendant, or of their home, vehicle, or items in their possession;
- Messages describing a person’s intent, motives, and feelings about an action they’ve taken or planned to take;
- Location data connecting a person to a certain place at the time they posted;
- Information contradicting what a defendant has claimed as an excuse or alibi;
- Timestamps linking a piece of information to the time that a crime allegedly occurred.
Limitations to the Use of Social Media in a Criminal Trial
Prosecutors are bound by rules of evidence and ethical duties when it comes to the introduction of social media evidence at trial. Under Rule 901 of the Texas Rules of Evidence, a party offering evidence must provide supporting evidence that the item “is what the proponent claims it is”.
For social media evidence, this means authenticating a post either through admission of the party that made the post, or through other digital or physical evidence showing it was not made by some other person or computer program. In other words, a mere printout of an alleged social media post is not sufficient as evidence, in and of itself. There must be more to convince the court that it is reliable evidence in a criminal trial.
Having a skilled criminal defense attorney at your side can help when the prosecution attempts to offer a flood of social media evidence. Often this will happen at the pretrial stages in attempts to corner the defendant into a guilty plea. If you are the defendant, you have a right to trustworthy legal counsel to protect your rights and make sure the rules of evidence are being followed.
At the same time, anybody – whether they have a criminal case or not – must be mindful of what goes online when it comes to their personal lives. Privacy safeguards are being eroded through social media, and sometimes this can have devastating legal consequences for those involved.
Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Social Media Pitfalls in a Criminal Case
The best defense against having social media posts being used against you is to keep them from going public in the first place. Even if a social media post seems to implicate a person, however, the rule of law and rules of evidence must still be followed in a criminal case. At Keith B. French Law, our Pearland criminal lawyers can help if you believe social media posts may cause problems in any type of criminal case. Contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today or call 832-243-6153 to discuss your concerns – our legal team is here to help.