Can Facebook Messages be Used in Court in an Arizona Criminal Case?
We have all used social media in ways that we’ve eventually come to regret. Publishing the wrong photo or making a statement under the influence of emotions can both have a serious impact on relationships and even professional development. In some situations, however, the consequences of sharing on social media can be much more serious.
Can social media publications be used as evidence in Arizona criminal investigations? Is it possible for the prosecution to use your own posts against you? Here’s everything you need to know about the topic.
Can Social Media Information Be Used as Evidence Against You?
If law enforcement professionals believe that you have been involved in criminal activities, they can look for online information. The content of your social media profiles isn’t excluded from consideration.
There have already been instances of people going to jail because Facebook or Twitter posts were used as evidence against them. In September 2012, the 18-year-old Paula Asher committed a DUI hit and run and joked about it on Facebook. The parents of the teenagers who were hit by Asher saw the publication and contacted a local judge about it.
Eventually, Asher admitted her publication was based on real events.
Arizona law enforcement professionals can rely on the information that you post publicly and without restrictions. They cannot access information that you’ve shared solely with a group of friends or that you’ve made private. If you’ve undertaken steps to ensure the privacy of your online information, you are protected by the Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution.
Can Private Publications Be Accessed?
There may be instances in which law enforcement professionals believe they should be given access to private profiles and publications on social media. Websites like Facebook, however, will not make such information readily available unless there’s a search warrant or a court subpoena.
If a search warrant exists, the prosecution will get access to publications you restricted.
Even if police officers do not have a search warrant, they may still access social media posts you have privated. This is easy to do whenever a person who’s a member of your social media network is convinced to cooperate with the police. This person will act as a witness and they’ll reveal the content of social media publications that do not have a public status.
Posts and comments you make on the social media profiles or publications of other people are also easy to access. Such information can be used against you in court.
What Can You Do about it?
The smartest thing to do is to be careful about the information you share on Facebook, Instagram or in your YouTube videos. Even if you make a publication private or you delete it, chances are that investigators will eventually gain access to it.
Keep in mind that in order to be used in court, digital evidence will have to be authenticated. The prosecution should be capable of proving the authenticity and the origin of social media pots that are presented as evidence against you. If you have an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney, you may be capable of challenging social media evidence on these grounds. Click here for information on sexting in Arizona.
Very often, decisions will depend on the manner in which the court interprets the admissibility of social media evidence. In some cases, defendants have challenged search warrants and subpoenas and they’ve been successful. In other instances, the court maintained the admissibility of the social media evidence. Thus, a good lawyer should approach the situation from different angles. A number of defense strategies could be applied and some of them could potentially help for the dismissal of social media evidence from the criminal proceedings.