Posting on Social Media? The Police See You

Learn more about how not everything you post on social media is private and how it can actually be used in a case against you or others.

By now you have probably heard that anything on the Web or on your computer lasts forever. A techie with the know-how can find it, even if you try to delete or obscure it. This is especially true of information you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social media sites.

The best, most direct advice we can give as criminal defense attorneys is this: Never post anything suggesting that you have been involved in criminal activity. And if you are facing criminal charges, stay off social media, period. Just stop. It is the best way to protect yourself from yourself.

There are numerous examples of people who have committed a crime and confessed or provided evidence of wrongdoing on social media sites. Yes, of course – you are smarter than that. But so were they!

A Lexis-Nexis Risk Solutions survey found that four out of five federal, state and local law enforcement officials used social media to gather intelligence during investigations, Psychology Today reported. In addition:

• Most of the surveyed law enforcement officials said they use social media to help solve crimes faster.

• Half said they check social media sites at least once a week.

• Facebook is the most fruitful network for law enforcement, followed by YouTube.

A report by the New York Times declared: “In many ways, social media has been a boon for law enforcement, handing the police ready admissions of guilt, equipping criminal investigators with new types of evidence and empowering prosecutors to better dispel reasonable doubt of guilt.”

According to the New York Times and Psychology Today:

• An 18-year-old in Delaware received a stiffer sentence for vehicular manslaughter after prosecutors used photos and comments from her MySpace page as evidence. The photos and comments glamorized alcohol abuse.

• A man in Hawaii was charged after posting a video titled “Let’s Go Driving, Drinking!” in which he appears to open and drink a beer while driving.

• A 19-year-old girl from Nebraska was arrested after posting a YouTube video bragging about having robbed a bank.

• A Chicago man was arrested and charged with terrorizing students based on threatening posts to his Facebook page. One post said, “There’s nothing wrong with a little shooting as long as the right people get shot.”

• Two teenage girls in Sweden were arrested for robbing a “burger joint” based on evidence that included a “pre-robbery selfie posted to Facebook” showing them in black-stocking masks and hoodies and with one of them holding a large knife like the one used in the robbery.

• Sexualized photos of women on Facebook and MySpace have repeatedly been used against them in child custody and divorce cases.

A 2013 report in the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology explained that law enforcement officers don’t need a search warrant, subpoena or court order to find “troves’ of evidence on social media. The report noted that the New York Police Department has a social media unit that mines Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites for evidence of crimes and potential criminal activity.

Not only is the information publicly available, the report pointed out, but investigators can get access to your information by using fake online identities or getting cooperation from witnesses such as your Facebook “friends.”

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, there are many steps you should take to protect yourself from self-incrimination and to safeguard your rights. The experienced criminal defense team at Cafferty & Scheidegger, S.C., is ready to offer you legal advice. Call us today to get started.

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