Social Media in Sex Crimes CasesPublished: Mar 31, 2017 in Sex Crimes
It is rare to meet someone who does not have at least one social media account these days. According to the Pew Research Center, 68 percent of adults in the U.S. have a Facebook page. Between 21 and 28 percent use Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. The numbers may be higher for adolescents who have grown up with smartphones and social media. It is not surprising then that both prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers use social media in sex crime cases. In general, social media content can be admitted as evidence. From Facebook live videos to tweets, social media can be used to try and prove your guilt or innocence in court.
Social Media Can Be Evidence in Criminal Cases
In a sex crime case, it is important you realize prosecutors will seek to use a wide range of evidence against you. While you may expect to hear testimony during a trial, since that is what you see on TV, you should also anticipate prosecutors using pictures, videos, text messages, GPS data, social media content and much more to make you look guilty. Public and private social media content from sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Tinder can be obtained either through a public search online or a subpoena forcing you or the website to provide the information. There is no reason why social media images, videos, written content, or data cannot be used as evidence, so long as it meets the courts’ rules for what is relevant and authentic, which means real and untampered with.
How Prosecutors May Use Social Media Against You
If you are being investigated for a sex crime, prosecutors will turn to your social media accounts for content that implies or supports your guilt. Prosecutors, in the past, have used videos and photos that show the crime being committed or private messages and public comments that admit guilt for an offense. For instance, if you are accused of public lewdness and there are pictures of you engaging in a sexual act outside with other people in the background, whether for the current offense or at a previous time, prosecutors will want these images admitted during a trial.
Prosecutors will also review your profiles for content that is less obviously incriminating, yet implicates you nonetheless. What you thought to be jokes or private exchanges among friends could be used against you to show you knew who the alleged victim was, previously interacted with the alleged victim, or committed the same or similar actions to what you are accused of before. For example, if you are charged with indecent exposure for flashing your breasts and a friend comments on your Facebook wall about a similar-sounding incident, this may be used against you.
Additionally, more general social media content can be used to show that you are of poor character and would be likely to commit a sexual offense. If you are accused of sexually assaulting a woman and have public comments degrading women, making sexually explicit comments about women, or making sexually violent threats against women on your social media accounts, these can be used to demonstrate your character and likelihood to commit violence.
Social Media Can Help Your Defense
Your social media content may not hurt your case. In some situations, it can help. In every way your social media content can be used against you, it can be used to poke holes in an alleged victim’s story or to support your innocence.
Social media posts are timed and can be traced back to an IP address. You may have online proof you were in another place, doing something else at the time of the crime. For example, if you were accused of a sexual assault that took place in a specific building on campus, yet you posted pictures of yourself at a party in a different apartment complex at the time the crime occurred, you can demonstrate the prosecutors have the wrong person.
Social media content has also been used to prove an alleged victim is lying or exaggerating. The alleged victim’s social media content can be used to show he or she was in a different place, doing something else, or with different people at the time of the crime. Social media comments, messages, pictures, and videos posted after the crime allegedly occurred can be used to demonstrate the alleged victim did not suffer the injuries he or she claims.
Handling Social Media During Your Case
You may have incriminating or circumstantial content on your social media accounts without even realizing it. If you have been charged with any sex offense and have one or more social media profiles, tell your criminal defense attorney immediately. You and your attorney cannot destroy this information, as this could lead to negative consequences for your case and punishments. However, your attorney must be prepared to address this potential evidence in court, including determining whether the content can be questioned and prohibited from being used at trial.
It is crucial you not participate in social media during your case. Once you have been formally charged with a sex crime, it is best to stop using your social media profiles altogether. You may also want to take them down. This does not mean delete the content. Instead, many social networking sites allow you to pause your account or through privacy settings, remove it from public view. If you choose to leave your social media profiles up, never post or comment on the case.
Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer For Help
Social media is quickly becoming common evidence in criminal cases. If you have been charged with a crime and like everyone else, you have social media, bring this to your lawyer’s attention right away. By working with attorney Ned Barnett, you will learn how social media can positively or negatively affect your case. With more than three decades of experience as a Texas attorney under his belt, he can objectively review your social media content and anticipate how it might be used against your or how it can be incorporated into your defense.