Social Media Evidence in Criminal Cases

Teens in a circle showing proof of social media evidence in criminal cases

Like it or not, social media is a fixture in our daily lives. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, Instagram, or another platform, we use these apps and websites to keep up with friends and family, develop business relationships, and share our lives.

While social media is everywhere, you might not realize that prosecutors can access and use social media evidence in criminal cases, even if your posts are set to “private” or “friends only.” If you have been charged with a crime, avoid posting about your case on social media, and contact the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, today to prepare a vigorous legal defense.

Social Media Evidence In Criminal Cases Benefits Law Enforcement and Prosecutors

Courts across the country have ruled that internet posts are public information and can be used as evidence in a criminal case. Knowing this, police and prosecutors try to gather social media evidence online and use it to corroborate or disprove a witness’s statements, prove that a defendant was at the scene of a crime, or prove intent, which can lead to additional criminal charges.

Social media evidence in criminal cases is particularly interesting for prosecutors because it can be used to support their motive, and obtaining it doesn’t require a warrant. In addition, prosecutors can use a defendant’s social media posts to paint an unflattering picture, make a criminal defendant seem irresponsible, or demonstrate malicious intent.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the criminal justice system and social media companies is one-sided, as social media companies bend over backward to help law enforcement without offering the same level of assistance to criminal defendants and their lawyers. Social media companies are not legally required to cooperate with lawyers for criminal defendants. Yet they offer portals for prosecutors and police officers to upload warrants, orders, and subpoenas.

Online Content Is NOT Private

No matter what privacy settings you use for your social media accounts, your online content can be used against you in court. Social media evidence in criminal cases is not taken lightly and will be used against you.

Many social media users think they are protected because they only share information with friends or use apps where messages “disappear” after being sent.

But as they say, “the internet is forever,” and law enforcement officers and prosecutors can gain access to your online content and use it against you in your criminal case. Prosecutors routinely ask for a defendant’s account information as social media evidence in criminal cases. They can request records directly from a social media company, ask a judge to order you to turn over your login credentials, or subpoena information from your account.

Courts have ruled that there is no expectation of privacy in social media content, and judges have little hesitation in granting requests for social media evidence. The rationale is that you shared online content with a large audience and that it is fair for police and prosecutors to access it. A defendant does not have a legal expectation of privacy in social media posts. If you share incriminating information—even in a private chat—it can be used as evidence to convict you in court.

Avoid Discussing Your Criminal Case Online

You should avoid discussing your criminal case with anyone other than your attorney. This is doubly true online. If you truly must discuss something about your criminal case, do it in person.

You should also tell your friends and family not to discuss your criminal case with anyone and not to discuss it online. And if you were engaged in potentially illegal activity, be careful when accepting new requests. Police officers create fake profiles and use information gained online against you in court.

Do Not Delete Old Online Content

If you have already posted about your criminal case, you may be tempted to delete these old posts.

Don’t.

You could be charged with tampering with evidence. And remember that even if you used encryption technology, law enforcement can access anything that was on a computer, social media app, or mobile device.

Be Smart About Your Online Content

Your life doesn’t stop just because you were charged with a crime. But be smart about how you use the internet. Be selective about what you post and who you interact with. Don’t say anything that could put you in a negative light or lead to additional criminal charges. Be careful where you click. Avoid risky websites that could give hackers access to your online accounts.

Contact The Stowe Law Firm for Experienced Criminal Defense

If you have questions or are concerned about your online content or how social media evidence in criminal cases could be used, the Stowe Law Firm can help.

North Carolina criminal defense Ryan Stowe has been in practice since 2016. He has extensive experience defending people accused of crimes and knows the tactics law enforcement officers use to obtain online content in a criminal case. To put Mr. Stowe’s experience to work for you, contact us today.

The Stowe Law Firm is based in Salisbury, North Carolina, and proudly represents people in Rowan County, Mecklenburg County, Davidson County, Cabarrus County, and Stanly County.