Law Enforcement Officers Routinely Search Social Media Sites in Criminal Investigations
Social media use has exploded over the past decade. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are currently the most popular sites for sharing the latest news, gossip and photos, and new social media websites are launching almost daily. Social media users share the most intimate details of their lives in countless status updates, including where they were, what they did, what they ate, who accompanied them and what they saw and heard. Strangers can learn a great deal of personal information about a Facebook or Twitter user simply by visiting her page. So can police officers and prosecutors.
Indiana law enforcement agencies are leveraging the benefits of social media in solving criminal cases. A July 2012 survey of more than 1,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies by LexisNexis Risk Solutions revealed that four out of five agencies use social media for investigations.
Social media websites contain features and information that clue police officers in on:
- A suspect’s location,
- What a suspect was doing in the days and hours leading up to the crime,
- Potential witnesses or accomplices, and
- Background information on the witness and suspect
In addition to using social media to identify pieces of evidence that will help prove their case, law enforcement agencies use the tool to organize public outreach efforts and solicit tips on unsolved crimes. Many police departments have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and use these avenues to relay important public safety information to the public.
There is No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy on Facebook
A number of courts have ruled that social media postings are not private, even when users adjust their privacy settings to shield their page from public view. Facebook and Twitter’s privacy policies warn users that the purpose of the sites is to share information, and that the public can view the posts on the sites. Social media users must understand that anything they post on social media websites can and will be found and used against them in a criminal investigation and trial.
Making Threats on Social Media Websites is a Felony in Indiana
It is currently a crime in Indiana to post threats on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites. Intimidation via social media is a Class D felony if the person to whom the threat is communicated is a law enforcement officer, witness in a pending criminal proceeding, court employee, hospital or school worker, church, employee, or owner of a building or structure that is open to the public. Communicating threats via social media is a Class C felony if the threat targets a judge, bailiff or prosecutor. To avoid criminal charges and possible imprisonment, be very careful what you say on social media websites. Even statements made in jest on Facebook can give rise to criminal charges for illegal threats.
Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney John Razumich Can Help Reduce the Negative Impact of Social Media Posts on Your Criminal Case
Attorney John Razumich aggressively defends Indiana residents against a wide range of criminal charges, from basic misdemeanors to complex felony charges. If you have been charged with a crime and are an active user of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, Mr. Razumich can guide you on steps you should take to reduce the damaging impact of your status updates, check-ins and photos on your case.
This website has been prepared by John Razumich, Attorney at Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.