Social media serves several purposes when solving criminal cases. Legal defense teams can use Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media to track possible suspects as well as gain information. Studies suggest that over 50 percent of respondents use social media on a weekly basis. Individuals who use social media on a regular basis will often post their location as well as their activities online.
Social media sites allow users to post information about them for others to see both publicly and privately. They can post comments, pictures and statuses detailing their general activities or use the site as a place to notify others of their location and specific activities. A few of the more popular social media sites are:
• Twitter • Instagram • LinkedIn
Sites like LinkedIn are used primarily by professionals as a networking tool, while the others are more often frequented by individuals for personal use. A criminal defense law firm in California or Florida can access public accounts and use the information posted on them to investigate criminal activity. The information contained in those accounts can be used against a defender, or may even be used to garner support from the public.
Because social media sites are considered public forums, anything posted without restrictions is often admissible in court. In cases where search warrants were requested using information from social media sites, at least 87 percent of them were approved for use in court proceedings. An attorney at a criminal defense law firm in Florida or California can also use social media sites to bolster support for their clients. For example, right here in Florida George Zimmerman’s attorney created a Facebook page where he could keep supporters up to date on the trial proceedings. (1) Using the same tactic, Trayvon Martin’s supporters used both Facebook and Twitter to set up protests across the country.
Who Uses Social Media for Legal Purposes
Both law enforcement and legal professionals use social media for legal purposes. Law enforcement detectives and investigators use the location features to determine the whereabouts of individuals during specific events and at various times. This can provide them with a timeline of an individual’s activities. They also can determine who an individual was with through pictures. Although it isn’t solid proof, it can give police officers enough evidence to pursue a search warrant. If evidence is produced through a legal search, an arrest warrant may follow.
Legal professionals use social media sites as a way of gaining information for or against an offender for a specific case. For example, if an offender used a social media site to plan a particular crime and posts can be related to the event, the information can be used in court against them. The information they gain from public posts include time, date, location and other individuals who may be involved. Legal cases can be built around social media posts, but only when it leads to evidence which is substantiated through other means. A criminal defense law firm in California or Florida can effectively take information and establish a foundation for both criminal charges and defenses.
Using Social Media to Track Gang and Other Illegal Activity
Police officers who are diligent when investigating gang and other group related criminal activity can establish networks that eventually provide them with an extensive list of potential gang members and leaders. As former prosecutors who worked with others in the Pinellas County Gang Crimes Unit, we know first hand that police and prosecutors set up facebook and other social media accounts and attempt to attract gang members to their sites. A legal professional at a criminal defense firm in Florida or California who uses social media posts must ensure the authenticity through whatever means possible if they intend to use the information to bring charges against an offender.
About the author:
This post is created by RJ Manuelian who is an author, a speaker, legal expert, consultant and legal commentator for all major media outlets including FOX News, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC etc., He is associated with Manuelian Law firm – manuelianlawfirm.com.
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