If you were arrested in Las Vegas recently, you need to know what not to do on social media. Given how popular social media platforms have become, social media evidence in criminal cases has now become relatively common. In other words, it is not out of the ordinary at all for a defendant facing criminal charges to learn that the prosecution plans to use information from social media sites in an attempt to convict the defendant.
Yet as anyone who uses social media — from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to Twitter — knows, words and images can be taken out of context. The social media effect on criminal justice is changing the way prosecutions present cases, but if you were charged with a crime, you should not have to let social media impact your case.
When you have been charged with a criminal offense in the Las Vegas area, it is extremely important to work with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer who knows the pitfalls of a criminal case and how to avoid them.
Can Police Get Evidence from Social Media?
Social media laws and regulations may allow the police to obtain information from social media accounts even when the defendant has set his or her social media profile to “private” settings. Just because your profile is “private” does not mean that the police or the prosecution cannot use information contained in your profile — or in other profiles where you have been “tagged” — as evidence against you in your case.
According to data from Statista.com, 81 percent of the U.S. population currently uses social media in some capacity. That number has increased dramatically since 2008, when only 24 percent of the population used social media. A very large majority of Americans have social media accounts and post on them regularly.
Social Media Laws and Regulations
Did you assume that your “private” social media accounts were not accessible by the police or by the prosecution? You need to think again. The Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712) permits access to social media profiles, even when there are privacy settings in place. Section 2702 specifically states:
“[A] person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public shall not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents of a communication while in electronic storage by that service.”
However, there are key exceptions that could allow law enforcement to obtain this information. Specifically, this law makes clear that a provider of an electronic communication service may indeed “divulge the contents of a communication” to a number of different parties, including to a law enforcement agency or to a governmental entity under certain circumstances.
As such, the consequences of posting on social media when charged with a crime can be enormous. You could be convicted of a crime because you posted incriminating information on your social media account. If you have been arrested for or charged with a crime, you should stop posting to social media immediately, and you should set controls so that others cannot “tag” you in posts. Although it does not destroy what has already been posted, it is often helpful for you to delete all social media accounts to prevent further information being taken out of context against you.
Using Social Media Evidence in Criminal Cases
Now that you know law enforcement officials may be able to access information on your Facebook profile or your Twitter account, what kind of information are the police looking to find? The answer can vary depending upon the person charged with the crime and the type of offense.
Sometimes a person accused of a crime posts something on social media that can be used against him or her as evidence of the offense. For instance, if the person is charged with a weapons offense, she or he might post a photo that shows the type of weapon in question for which the person was charged. In other cases, social media related crimes involve doing something on your computer that may result in an arrest. For instance, Nevada computer crimes (NRS 205.4765) or Nevada internet crimes against children can involve the use of social media for the purposes of committing the crime. In yet other types of cases, the alleged offender might actually post something about the crime itself on social media. For example, if a person is arrested for crimes against property offense (NRS 205.070) such as burglary, and that person posts a video of herself breaking into a house on Facebook, she will be providing direct evidence of the offense.
More often than not, however, a person who is facing criminal charges posts something incriminating without realizing that it can be used against him or her in court. The following is a list of reasons not to use social media if you have been charged with a crime:
- Police can access your social media accounts.
- Information on your social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, may result in criminal charges.
- The prosecution may be able to use information contained on your social media accounts as evidence against you in your criminal case.
Effect of Social Media on Criminal Justice
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, social media is changing the way the criminal justice system works in certain respects. Primarily, now that law enforcement agencies and prosecution teams can have access to the seemingly “private” information contained on sites like Twitter or Facebook, individuals can unknowingly post an image or a comment that could end up being introduced into evidence at trial.
Social media can make it easier for law enforcement officials to access what looks like evidence in criminal cases. Given this fact, it is important to think very carefully about what you put into the public domain and how it depicts you. Even if you intend a post as a joke, it can be used against you.
If you are facing criminal charges, you should avoid posting to social media sites altogether.
Contact a Las Vegas Defense Attorney About Your Case
Have you been charged with a criminal offense in Las Vegas? Is someone in your family facing criminal charges? You should reach out to an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to get started on your case. A defense lawyer can help defend individuals accused of crimes and work to secure a positive outcome.
When you work with Law Office of Joel M. Mann, you work with me directly. You will have an attorney who is going to listen to you and will work tirelessly to achieve the best results possible in your case. Contact the Law Office of Joel M. Mann today to learn more about how we can build a strong defense in your case.