Can Social Media Be Used As Evidence?

Attorneys can present social media posts as evidence in court. Once you post something to Facebook, you willingly share it with the internet. The law about illegally obtaining evidence no longer applies because you chose to release the information and share it with anyone who can view it. If the post or photo is relevant, it can be an effective piece of evidence.


Social media sites cooperate with authorities in criminal cases, but subpoenas can be complicated. The sites can usually provide proof of ownership. Some people try to deny ownership of their account in an effort to separate themselves from the responsibility. Social media sites can confirm who controls the account in question.

The prosecutor or a law enforcement officer must prove that the account likely holds important information for the case – information that would not be available without access to the account – in order to gain access to specific social media posts.

Proving that an account belongs to someone is usually not effective evidence. The prosecutor must prove that the account owner wrote the post him or herself. A friend might access another friend’s account as a joke or someone could hack into a social media account and publish posts.


Police may create social media profiles to identify suspects, and they will often post images of suspects on Facebook to help the public ID the alleged perpetrator. Police also create false accounts and gain access to private accounts of a suspect’s friend network. Important information potentially discovered through social media can include witnesses, co-conspirators, motives, and victims.

Alternatively, criminal defense attorneys can also use social media to defend accused citizens in criminal scenarios. A skilled lawyer may enter social media as evidence to share accounts of crucial information, such as private messages involving interested parties, or public location data. Conversely, criminal defense lawyers are bound to restrictions of which the police are free. Ethical regulations deny defense attorneys from creating false accounts to connect with involved parties on social media in order to gain access to private accounts, for example.


It is important to remember that privacy on your social media account does not extend to criminal protection. This holds true even if your account is private. Many U.S. courts through the nation have rejected the notion that defendants hold Fourth Amendment rights to privacy over social media accounts, whether set to public or private. Essentially, the definition of public versus private hinges on whether information is shared, independent of the circle with which it is shared. If you posted something, you published it to the public regardless of your privacy settings.


Using online content as evidence in a case can be difficult. Clear laws exist about illegally accessing online content such as social media information. Inadmissible evidence, for example, includes inflammatory evidence, irrelevant evidence, and prejudicial evidence, among various others forms.

For more information about social media accounts and the legality of using them as evidence, contact Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C. today. Our criminal defense lawyers have the experience to help you make the most informed legal decisions possible.