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Social Media and Your Court Case


 

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram, have become an integral part of people’s lives. Over 1.7 billion people have active social media accounts.[1]  It is often the core form of communication between friends and family and an excellent source of advertisement for businesses.  However, what you share on social media becomes public record and may impact a pending court case.

Use of social media posts as evidence is increasing.  Potential evidence includes Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, or Google history searches.  Such evidence may be obtained with a government issued subpoena.  Upon receipt of a government issued subpoena, Facebook provides the following account information:

-User ID number

-Email address, phone number, profile contact info

-Date and time of your account’s creation

-The most recent logins, usually the last 2-3 days

-Mini-feed

-Status update history

-Shares, Notes and Wall posts

-Friends list and Groups list

-Future and past events

-Videos and Photos

-Private messages

-IP logs (computers/locations where you logged in)[2]

Do not forget that government agencies do not need subpoenas to simply view your Facebook.  Viewing your page may provide them with sufficient information to charge you with a crime.  For example, three men currently face felony burglary charges in Manhattan Criminal Court for base jumping off One World Trade Center.  The trio posted photos and video of their base jump on YouTube, resulting in their arrest.  On November 18, 2014, the judge refused to dismiss the felony charges and trial was set for May 18, 2015.[3]

The government may use this information against you in court.  In criminal cases, an attorney may use Facebook and Instagram photos to prove someone was drinking, possessed stolen goods or weapons, or to find witnesses.  Foursquare check-ins can prove or disprove someone’s alibi or locate witnesses to a crime.  In juvenile cases, social media posts or photos may prove underage consumption of alcohol, curfew violations or truancy.  Attorneys and police officers also use Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts as background checks.

Social media activity may not only impact your life, but your child’s life as well.  Arizona awards parenting time based on the best interest of the child.  Proof of drug or alcohol abuse creates a rebuttable presumption that joint parenting time is not in the best interest of the child.  Social media posts and photos can establish a history of drug or alcohol abuse.  If the other parent shows the court you have a drug or alcohol problem, the court may limit or end your parenting time.

Once you post personal information on social media, it is not private and almost anyone can access this information.  Understand the consequences that can come from making your individual life so public.  Be more aware of your social media activity and how attorneys use this activity in court proceedings.

Ms. Lisa L. Monnette can be contacted at (480) 704-0777 or [email protected].

 

[1] “33 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2015,” Jeff Bullas,  http://www.jeffbullas.com/2015/04/08/33-social-media-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know-in-2015/#Lki69XDWHkBZGO5j.99

[2] “Here’s what happens when the police subpoena your Facebook,” Matthew Panzarino, http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2011/05/02/heres-what-happens-when-the-police-subpoena-your-facebook/

[3] “Judge blasts 1 World Trade Center BASE jumpers as he refuses to toss their felony charges,”  Barry Paddock and Shayna Jacobs, http://nypost.com/2014/11/18/judge-scolds-wtc-base-jumpers-wont-toss-case/