How social media evidence can be used in a criminal trial

When officials use social media information as evidence in a criminal trial, there are certain steps they must take to ensure its accuracy and relevancy.

Millions of Americans use social media as a way to keep friends, family and colleagues up to date on their lives, careers, news and other important events. While people may be quick to post, what may seem like an innocent remark, picture or comment, they may not understand how these posts could be used against them in a criminal court case. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, social media evidence, or electronically stored information, may be admissible in court.

What is social media evidence?

According to Bloomberg BNA, status updates and pictures are not the only key pieces of information that may be used to help support the facts of a case. Officials can determine where someone was at a certain time through GPS locations, check-ins and login timetables. They can discover different associations through group memberships, friend lists, chat logs and messages. Another user may tag the suspect in a photo, which can be used as evidence as well.

Obtaining the evidence

Before law enforcement can obtain certain types of social media information, they must have a warrant, a court order or an administrative subpoena, according to the American Bar Association. They must also prove that the information is relevant to the case. This means that admission of the evidence in court supports a fact or an idea that is being presented in the case. For example, defendants facing fraud charges may have people on their friend list that directly links them to an incident. A defendant may also have social media posts or messages that contradict certain statements he or she made during the trial.

In addition to proving relevance, law enforcement must ensure that the information they obtain is authentic and has not been manipulated. Social medial profiles can be hacked into, and so it is important that the evidence is verified for accuracy. Officials must look at how the information was collected, as well as who had access to the information and where it was obtained.

Finding legal counsel

Whether you are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, embezzlement or any other type of white collar crime, you may want to seek legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney in Maryland. Being convicted of a crime has severe consequences that can affect many areas of your life. Having an attorney available to answer your questions and walk you through the legal process may be helpful if you have been charged with a crime.

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