How law enforcement uses social media in criminal investigations

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2017 | Criminal Defense |

Social media continues to grow as a huge part of day-to-day life. Many people are so used to sharing and interacting on social networks that they do not give much thought to what they post. However, careless posts on social media can be a windfall for law enforcement agents looking for a conviction. Being aware of how police officers use social media in their investigations can help you steer clear of potentially risky situations.

Making it easy for to gather information from the public

Many police departments across the country have taken the proactive step of establishing their own social media presence on networks like Facebook and Twitter. In addition to providing information to the public regarding matters like safety advisories, office hours and hotline numbers, law enforcement accounts serve as a vehicle for getting information from the public. A department may post inquiries asking for information about a crime or suspect. People who would not go to the trouble of calling often find it easy to type the same thing on a social media page.

Protect your social media account content

When investigating a crime, law enforcement agents may monitor social media accounts. Privacy settings may not always protect you from unwanted views, especially as those settings can be hard to understand and tend to change often. Photographs, posts, check-ins and comments can all serve as evidence against you. This includes material that other people post to your page, so be sure to monitor all content. While most people know not to tell all about their crimes, if you are already being scrutinized, evidence of even relatively minor crimes can land you in trouble.

You can become part of an investigation even if you are careful about your social media presence. This can happen if police are monitoring a suspect’s accounts and your name is mentioned, you appear in a photo or i in the suspect’s friends or follow lists.

Obviously, the smart thing to do is take precautions to avoid incriminating yourself on social media. However, even if law enforcement agents do contact you based on material they gathered from social networks, it does not always mean they have a strong case against you. It is possible that law enforcement violated the laws of evidence, probable cause and permissible searches. These are complex legal areas. Consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can assess the evidence against you and move assertively to protect your rights.

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