Do prosecutors use Facebook and other social networking sites for discovery?
When people update their status or share photographs on Facebook and similar social networking sites, the justice system isn’t usually on their mind. But law enforcement officers who troll these sites for information related to investigations often like what they see: discovery. Since the information is generally public, there’s often nothing to stop the prosecution from using it against the defendant at trial. And even if they don’t use it in the courtroom, it might provide investigative leads.
Social Media Gone Wrong
Here are just a few of many possible examples of defendants incriminating themselves with online information.
- Drug enforcement agents checking out a California suspect’s social network site found photos showing him surrounded by marijuana plants. The suspect bragged on the website that the plants were a cash crop.
- A defendant who was the son off a well-known California politician was charged with murder. Powerful friends who supported the defendant’s release on low bail submitted affidavits to the judge attesting to his good character. The prosecution rebutted these testimonials with photos the defendant had posted on his social network page: They showed him stabbing a frog and raising a knife over a kitten.
- Florida detectives arrested a few burglary suspects after finding on social networking sites photos of them standing among the stolen items.
- Texas authorities revoked the parole of convicted sex offenders who had created social network profiles in violation of the terms of their release.
The moral of the story is that people should think before posting potentially incriminating information about themselves online.
Consult a Lawyer
If you’re worried about information you’ve posted online or are otherwise concerned about criminal charges or investigation, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Only such a lawyer can advise you fully as to the law that applies to your situation.