Can Social Media Evidence be Used in Court?
Many people take to social media to share a wealth of personal information, opinions, and more. Your social media accounts can tell a lot about you and your activities due to check-ins to certain locations or photos. Your accounts may also highlight certain friendships or relationships you have, as well as indicate with whom you may have had online disagreements or contentions.
Because there may be a wealth of information about your life on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed, it should be no surprise that prosecutors and investigators want to examine your accounts closely for clues or evidence regarding criminal cases. It is critical to realize that the authorities may be able to obtain access to your accounts even if you have strict privacy settings. Authorities can obtain warrants they can present to social media platforms to gain access to your profile and gather any information that they believe may help their case.
As common types of evidence evolve, so do the rules regarding admissible evidence in court. There have been many court cases regarding social media evidence in Texas, including the following:
- Tienda v. State of Texas, No. PD–0312–11 (2012) – In this case, the defendant claimed that evidence from a Myspace account should not be admissible because the authorship of the defendant could not be authenticated. The defendant claimed that someone else could have made the profile and posted photos and comments that were not his own. The Texas Fifth Court of Appeals disagreed, stating there were enough compelling circumstantial facts and distinctive characteristics to authenticate the evidence. This case set a standard in our state that social media evidence does not need a greater degree of authentication than other types of evidence.
- Rene v. State of Texas, 49 So.3d 248 (2010) – This defendant argued that photos of him from someone else’s social media account indicating gang activity should not be admitted because they were overly prejudicial and there was no proof the photos were not altered or fake. The court found the photos were not overly prejudicial as there was enough other evidence showing he was part of a gang that the photos were not prejudicial and were admissible.
For several years, Texas courts have been lenient about the admissibility of social media evidence. Such evidence has been used in many types of cases and can be compelling evidence to a jury. You should always stay off social media if you are accused of a crime, and you should hire a criminal defense lawyer who knows how to challenge social media evidence that should not be admissible.
The Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC knows that criminal cases are always adapting based on new technology and forms of evidence. Mr. Bowen is a skilled criminal defense lawyer who always stays on top of new developments in case law and Texas legislation. Call 940-222-2488 or contact us online if you need help after an arrest.