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Can Social Media Be Used To Help Convict Somebody Of A Crime?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Dec 01, 2018

Unbelievably enough, people post all sorts of criminal evidence and activity on their social media accounts — whether it be Facebook of Instagram — they're writing messages and saying things and showing photographs.  I saw one case where a criminal defendant actually posted a picture of himself with a watch that he had stolen from somebody.

Other people are making statements regarding crimes that they committed and then those statements are being used against them to prosecute them in their criminal case.

Detectives are now trained.  The first thing they do when they get a suspect in a criminal case is go on their social media accounts.  They're going to check them out and see what they can find out and then they're going to use any information they find on their if it's incriminating.

They can also issue subpoenas and get information from some of these social media accounts against people.  I've also seen, especially in sex-related offenses, people who are posting graphic photographs on Facebook for example.  Facebook reports those people.

Social Media Is A Major Source For Evidence

So, social media is a huge tool that is used now in criminal cases.  People who are gang members — when the prosecutors get gang allegations, they go in.  They issue search warrants on their home and grab any gang paraphernalia.  They also go on their social media accounts and any stuff on their that they deem is gang-related information.  People are posting pictures of themselves with guns on their social media.

So, social media is definitely an investigative tool for law enforcement.  Believe it or not, it's also an investigative tool for the defense in criminal cases.  Sometimes we can get good evidence against witnesses who are shooting their mouth off on social media.  So, social media is a tool that I've used more and more in practicing criminal defense now for twenty-five years, and I definitely see the prosecutors and police using social media to prosecute people.

Social Media Post Used To Prove Elements Of A Crime

If you have social media and you're being charged with a crime, I would be really careful what I post on that social media account because the police can use it against you.  Sometimes you post something that's not even incriminating, but they think it's incriminating and they're going to now twist it and try to use it as part of their case-in-chief against you to prove some element or fact that they want to prove.  Just like when criminal defense attorneys tell people not to make any statements to the police.  Posting stuff on social media is the same thing because the police can take it and twist it and use it against you.

Once that bell has rung — once you've posted information on social media – whether it be Instagram, Facebook or any of the other social media mediums — that are going to be used against you and you're not going to be able to take it back, and you can get up on the witness stand to try to explain it away, but that's another problem because a lot of times in criminal cases we don't want the criminal defendant testifying, but sometimes I've had cases where the criminal defendant has no choice but to testify because they have done or said something that is being twisted and used against them and now they have to get on the stand and explain that — which is fine unless there's other things that we don't want to come out.

Social Media Post Often Used To Convict Defendant

Maybe the person has a criminal conviction that normally wouldn't come out, but once they take the witness stand now it comes out.  Or maybe it's just strategically not a good idea if you don't have to, to testify.  But because you've said or done some things on social media, now you must come out and explain and testify, giving the prosecution a chance to cross examine you in a criminal case in Los Angeles and potentially exposing you or losing the case that way because you may say or do something that hurts you or the jury may hear something that they use against you in order to convict you.

So, if you have a social media account and have a criminal case pending in Los Angeles, you better sit down with your attorney and figure out your best strategy and make sure you don't post or do anything that can later be used against you in your criminal case.

Related Resources:
Social media helped police track down thieves, murderers, and gang criminals

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.