At this point in time, nearly everyone is active on some form of social media -whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or all of the above. You may know that what's on your newsfeed and is shown to the general public can be used against you as evidence, but did you know that your private direct messages can also lead to charges being placed against you if misconduct is discovered?
In a recent Florida case, a 17-year-old girl was having a sexual relationship with a 60-year-old man, Neil Greenberg. This explicit relationship was discovered when her caretaker saw their private Facebook messages after the teen left her tablet unlocked. Once authorities went to the man's home with a warrant they discovered an SD card in a locked safe in the master bedroom closet with a folder containing a letter by Greenberg himself about previous relations with many other underage girls and several videos of proof. None of these files would have otherwise been found had it not been for the open Facebook messages on the young girl's tablet that lead the police to him. The discovery of that one set of messages lead to Greenberg being charged with 72 counts of child pornography.
Social Media Can Be Used As Evidence In Court
Public social media posts are easily accepted by the court as evidence. If it's on your public feed, it's available to be seen by anyone - including law enforcement. Private messages are slightly harder to stumble upon, but once they've been acquired, the courts are more than willing to use them as valid evidence. According to an article in Forbes, "Judge Michael Corriero explains that "the prohibition against using illegally obtained evidence applies primarily, essentially solely, to law enforcement. It doesn't apply to another civilian." So if you have exchanged self-incriminating messages with someone privately - e.g. through a messenger app - those would be admitted by most Western hemisphere courts without any issue."
What To Do If You're Being Charged For Something Due To Your Social Media Posts
When posting on social media, always keep in mind that even if your post or profile is deleted, once information is on the Internet it's likely to be out there forever. All social media platforms have archiving systems that keep data even after it's been deleted. Those who are viewing your posts, or are on the other end of your messages also have the ability to save them or may even take screenshots and share them with others without your knowledge.
It's always best to keep anything incriminating off of social media. If you are being charged for a crime resulting in something you've posted on social media, whether it's displayed to the public or stemming from a private message conversation, it's in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Give Russell Spatz a call today at (305) 442-0200 to schedule your consultation.
Arnold, A. (2018, December 30). Here's How Social Media Can Be Used Against You In Court. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/12/30/heres-how-social-media-can-be-used-against-you-in-court/#3136921e6344
Teproff, C. (2019, April 17). A Florida man's Facebook messenger chat led to 72 counts of child pornography charges. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article229334624.html