Social media and technology advancements in the past decade have changed how the world communicates. Technology allows us to use tablets, smartphones, and computers to communicate readily with loved ones and co-workers in an instant.
Billions of people use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to communicate with one another on a daily basis. The downside of social media technology, however, is that anything you post on a social media site is visible to the public—even when the user activates a so-called “privacy setting” or deletes a post. These social media postings can get people into trouble in their criminal cases.
If you are currently in the midst of Illinois criminal proceedings, you should be extremely careful about what you post on social media. In fact, you are usually better off not posting anything while your criminal case is pending in the system. Once your criminal case is over, you can resume your regular use of social media platforms.
If you were arrested for or charged with a crime in Illinois, you should call the knowledgeable DuPage, Kane, and Cook County, Illinois, criminal defense lawyers at Martin & Kent, L.L.C., to find out how we can maximize your chances of success at trial.
Problematic Social Media Postings
Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter allow users to post about their location, their day, their plans, and other personal information. Users can also upload photographs to pages they share with their friends and the public.
During a criminal investigation, however, some postings can be problematic. Some of the most troublesome types of social media posts include the following:
- Status updates – On social media platforms, users have the option to let others know about their past and present whereabouts—as well as where they plan to go in the future. These updates may also include information about whom the social media user was with at the time.
- Check-in updates – Check-in updates on social media platforms allow a user to indicate when and where they are at a particular time. If criminal activity occurred at that particular location, a check-in update will place the user at the scene.
- Pictures and videos – Social media users obviously have the option of posting photographs and videos to their social media pages. These platforms also allow one user to “tag” another user. The problem is that in some instances, these photographs and videos contain incriminating information.
Some social media users involved in a criminal case may be tempted to delete a particular social media post, photograph, video, or update which they believe may implicate them or place them at the crime scene. However, they should be wary of deleting these items, since a prosecutor may view this as an attempt to destroy evidence. This could also lead to further complications and penalties down the road.
The Privacy Settings Myth
Facebook and other popular social media sites offer their users “privacy settings” which they may choose to implement. These settings theoretically limit what others can view on the user’s page, including certain posts and pictures on the page. Although many users believe that these privacy settings make their posts “protected” or “privileged,” that is simply not the case.
Contrary to popular belief, law enforcement has good working relationships with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and these platforms will cooperate with the police, allowing them access to otherwise “private” content. In the majority of instances, police officers and investigators are not even required to obtain a subpoena in order to uncover information saved in a private social media account.
“Private” social media postings sometimes give law enforcement officers the necessary probable cause to make an arrest—or in the case of prosecutors, obtain a guilty finding or a conviction against the user. Postings on these accounts can also lead to further investigations that may uncover other incriminating evidence. For example, a photograph or post on social media could point to incriminating evidence in a user’s home or vehicle, leading to a search warrant being issued for that location.
How Criminal Investigators Use Social Media Posts
Criminal investigators use social media posts as one of many tools over the course of their investigations. Law enforcement and investigators can use social media posts in order to do some or all of the following:
- Determine the physical whereabouts of suspects and witnesses who are connected with a particular criminal investigation
- Validate a criminal defendant’s alibi (i.e. whether the accused was where he or she said at the time of the alleged criminal activity)
- Uncover new and potentially incriminating evidence against the accused in order to build a stronger case
- Use status updates, check-ins, and other postings to piece together a timeline of the criminal activity, including who did what and when
- Determine where a suspect was physically located at the time the incident happened
Contact a DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Illinois, Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are currently the subject of a criminal investigation in Illinois, stay off of social media. Social media has the power to implicate you in a criminal activity or validate you whereabouts at the time the activity occurred. The best thing you can do is to refrain from using social media altogether while your criminal matter is proceeding.
The experienced Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent, L.L.C., understand the importance of social media evidence during Illinois criminal cases and jury trials. Our lawyers can review how the evidence was obtained in your case and may be able to file a motion to have the evidence suppressed. If you are facing criminal charges, you should look no further than Martin & Kent, L.L.C., to provide you with smart, knowledgeable legal advocacy throughout your case.
To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Illinois, criminal defense lawyer, please call our free 24-hour hotline at (630) 474-8000 today.