Published on:

Prosecutor in Florida Theft Case Uses Defendant’s Facebook Post to Prove Case

With the proliferation of social media, the state has an extra tool it can use to obtain evidence and prove cases in court. At this point, people should understand that posting information on the internet, whether pictures, conversations, documents, etc., does not come with a reasonable expectation of privacy. The police or prosecutors can subpoena information from internet service providers or simply go on a defendant’s social media page and print off or download incriminating information.  The bottom line, whether in relation to a criminal case, a civil case or just generally- do not post things on the internet that you would not want the police or the general public to see.

For example, in a case just south of Jacksonville, Florida, the police were investigating two auto thefts that happened in similar locations within an hour of each other. The police developed suspects for the two auto thefts and ultimately obtained one of the suspect’s cellphones. They obtained a search warrant for the phone and saw Facebook postings showing two defendants in the stolen cars. One of the defendants was wearing one of the victim’s watches.  The videos were posted on Facebook shortly after the second auto theft. The victims were able to identify the suspects through the Facebook videos.  Both defendants were convicted based on the Facebook videos.

This was a fairly extreme example of stupidity on the part of the defendants, but people do post things on the internet that implicate them in crimes or negatively affect civil cases.  It may not be as obvious and direct as this, but it does happen, and police, prosecutors and parties in lawsuits do check Facebook pages and other social media to try to find evidence that helps their cases. In Florida, as long as the internet evidence is legitimate and unaltered, it very likely may be used as evidence in court.