How Law Enforcement Uses Social Media to Investigate Crimes
Social media has affected the way many businesses operate, and law enforcement is no exception. Today, a large and continuously increasing number of law enforcement agencies use the various social media platforms as an investigation tool. Officials use information found on these platforms to identify suspects, collect evidence and gain insight into suspects’ mental states.
As ill-advised as it would seem, many criminals actually post/boast about their illegal activities online. For example, a gang member might post about certain crimes to intimidate rival gang members. In other instances, pictures and videos posted on social media can help link an individual to a crime. Still yet, law enforcement can use social media to track and gain insight into a suspect’s overall mentality. Because posting on social media doesn’t carry an expectation of complete privacy, all activities are open to scrutiny.
How Law Enforcement Searches Social Media
Law enforcement officials use various methods when searching social media. Some of these include:
- Log on to the social media platform (if required), search for the suspect and read the public posts.
- Ask one of the suspect’s “friends” to use their account to view private posts.
- Create a fake profile and “friend” the suspect to view private posts.
Social Media and the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects individuals from unlawful and unreasonable searches and seizures. This simply means that the police can’t search you or your house without a warrant or probable cause.
Under existing law, social media information communicated through password-protected pages receives no reasonable expectation of privacy. As controversial as it is, federal courts generally rule that social media posts are not subject to Fourth Amendment protection. Therefore, officials can largely search private social media accounts to potentially find information to use as evidence in criminal cases.
If you’re facing criminal charges and you’re unsure if your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated, contact criminal defense attorney James Nelsen today.