Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat: Many of these social media outlets have become a common part of our daily lives. But can one of your simple social media posts be used against you in court; or worse, could it lead to your arrest?
The Quick Answer Is Yes
Social media posts can be used against you in court. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you from experience that social media posts are actually used quite frequently as evidence against people. So, does that mean you can’t have social media at all? Of course not. It simply means you should be conscious of what you are posting.
We’ve all seen pictures of guns, with sayings like, “How do you feel about gun control? Break into my house and find out.” On the surface, it seems harmless and kind of silly, but what happens if you actually have someone break into your house and you end up using a gun in self-defense? A prosecutor could come along and show this post to a jury, and imply that you’ve always been trigger-happy and just waiting for the opportunity to shoot an intruder.
But can social media posts lead to your arrest? Again, the answer is yes.
In fact, we’ve handled cases of those who’ve posted photos which they thought were completely harmless, but law enforcement got ahold of them and used them to arrest the individual.
Here’s an example: someone posts a photo of themselves with a deer they shot, and it turns out the deer is actually a protected breed that’s illegal to shoot.
It’s possible for wildlife officers to see this photo and use that photo to press charges against the individual. In fact, field reports posted by wildlife officers prove this is a very common practice. In addition, we’ve spoken to several ATF agents who’ve stumbled upon suspected criminal activity when they saw a YouTube or Facebook video of a person allegedly shouldering an AR pistol.
Officers Are Embracing The Age Of Technology As Much, If Not More So, Than We Are
Even an innocent photo here and there of you and your friends at the range or showing off your new addition to your collection can be used against you. Imagine an enterprising prosecutor, gathering dozens of photos with you and firearms posted over a long period of time, to make it seem like you’re gun crazy.
Social media can be a great way to keep in contact with friends and family, but it’s important to remember that these outlets are not private. They’re public, and it’s possible for law enforcement to get their hands on your posts.
A picture tells a thousand words and even when there’s no unlawful activity in your post, it may be misconstrued or misinterpreted, and used against you by law enforcement. So, before you decide to post anything on social media, stop for a moment. Think about how this could affect you and how this would look before a jury.
Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words, but in a court of law, it speaks volumes.