What role can social media play when facing a criminal charge?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Many people do not go a day without scrolling through social media. Whether they make a post to share their thoughts or peruse other pages, social media use is a commonplace, everyday occurrence.

Social media plays a significant role in our daily lives – but it is also playing an increasing part in criminal cases. How does this role work, and what are the risks of social media if you face criminal charges?

Posts can count as evidence

We have discussed some of the risks social media can pose in criminal cases in a previous blog post. As that post states, one of the biggest risks is that social media posts could serve as evidence against individuals facing criminal charges. For example, North Carolina police and prosecutors can use social media posts that:

  • Talk about a crime
  • Threaten a crime or other illegal activity
  • Include photos that place someone at the scene of the crime
  • Have evidence in posted photos, such as weapons or drug paraphernalia

These posts could provide circumstantial or hard evidence of criminal activity. For example, many young people are participating in the so-called, “Kia Challenge,” which promotes vehicle thefts across social media platforms like TikTok. These young people see this challenge and then post videos of themselves committing the thefts, which is evidence of a crime.

However, even if an individual took a photo of themselves within a stolen vehicle, it could be used as circumstantial evidence involving them in the crime. Prosecutors could use any of these types of posts against individuals.

This role is not new

In 2012, CNN reported that police frequently used social media posts as evidence in criminal cases. Both back then and now, it is not uncommon for police to:

  • Search defendants’ social media after an arrest
  • Investigate, or mine, social media for posts indicating criminal activity

Social media may exist on a digital plane, but it creates a very real risk. Individuals must understand how anything they post on social media could affect them, especially if they face criminal charges.