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Can social media like facebook and twitter be used as evidence in court
The things people disclose on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter never ceases to amaze me. Many users are all too willing to share the most intimidate details of their life for the whole world to see. In fact, some people share such details because the whole world can see (ex. Alec Baldwin, Kim Kardashian, ect). Well, this is a warning to all social media users---what you post on social media sites MAY be used as evidence in court!
Electronic communication law is a new and developing area of law. The Federal Rules of Procedure were recently amended to address the admissibility of electronic communications in federal court. The new federal ESI law applies to email, websites, word processing files, computer databases, and pretty much anything that can be stored electronically. The law has been interpreted to also apply to instant messaging, voicemails, and blogs. Under the new law, litigants in federal court have a duty to preserve all relevant information found in any of these sources. Any information found in these sources which the judge finds to be relevant to the case will be admitted as evidence.
Although federal law expressly deals with the various forms of electronic communications, most states lack laws that address this new and prevalent form of communication. But this hasn’t stopped lawyers from trying to get social media evidence in court. In fact, lawyers across the nation have been successful at getting information from social media sites admitted as evidence in a variety of state court cases.
For example, a defendant in a Rhode Island DUI case received a harsher sentence after the judge allowed a photo from Facebook depicting the defendant drinking to be admitted into evidence. In Michigan, the mayor of Detroit was found guilty of perjury after text messages were discovered that proved he had an affair with a subordinate. He was forced to resign as a result. The most shocking example occurred in Milwaukee where a surgeon tweeted minute-by-minute descriptions of a knee operation while he was operating! The moral of these cases is that what you post on the web can and will be used against you in the court of law. Granted, it may be to your advantage….but why take that risk.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
- Wall Street Journal
Article about New York Judge presiding over a personal-injury lawsuit who has ruled that material posted to online social networks, even content shielded by privacy settings, can be used as evidence in court.
- Insurance Journal
Article discussing how lawyers are trying to mine the private zones of Facebook and other social-media sites for evidence.
- Social Media Today
Article discussing the use of Facebook as evidence in workers’ compensation cases.
Article discussing the use of Facebook as evidence in Family Court.