As we all know, if you aren’t connected to the world via social media, it’s by choice. Social media has become the digital water cooler/poster board/truth teller for our society. It’s a place where we build consensus and community. It’s also, weirdly enough, become a place where we’ve become recklessly comfortable. Pictures of drunken nights on the town or friends in compromising positions are one thing, but there are an emerging set of instances in which people are incriminating themselves online. Which begs the question, “can social media posts be used in a court of law?” And the answer is “yes.”
Whether it’s the prosecution or a federal criminal defense attorney in Tampa, social media content can be used to build a case against the opposition. However, there are several items to consider. This includes:
To start, it’s important to understand that when you post something on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social media platform that it never really goes away. (Yes, that includes Snapchat!) Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to download you social media activity on those respective platforms. Also, what you post in social media is part of the public domain, even if it was in a private group. As a rule, you should never say anything on a social media platform that you wouldn’t put on a billboard on the side of I-75.
It’s important to note that the availability of social media posts is not universal. It’s not uncommon for a judge to grant access to specific portions of an individual social media history rather than giving free range. While everything that an individual puts on social media could be used in court, it’s more likely that it would be items that can be used to disapprove a claim that an individual is making or exhibit a lifestyle that’s indicative of an accusation. It’s also important to consider how social media information is received. It’s unethical to “friend” someone on Facebook in order to get access to their posts.
While it may seem logical that if you are under investigation for a crime to simply erase all social media posts or eliminate your accounts. This is not a good idea. It could be considered spoliation of evidence, which could hurt your case.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.