Social Media Evidence: Is it Admissible in Court?

Posted October 16th, 2017, by Dan Carman
Kentucky Defense Attorney

It’s no secret that social media has become one of the most popular forms of communication across the globe. In fact, in the United States alone, it’s estimated that nearly 80% of adults use at least one form of social media. One increasingly common question lawyers have begun to receive, then, is whether or not posts made on social media are considered admissible in court. After all, as our means of communication have evolved, it has historically taken our court systems some time to catch up.

Social Media Admissibility in Court

Generally speaking, social media posts may be admissible in court—whether used in a person’s defense or their prosecution. There are some regulations in place as to how information from a person’s social media page may be obtained in order to be considered admissible in court, however.

For starters, the social media post(s) must be obtained legally and ethically. This means that Internet privacy laws generally may not be broken in order to obtain access to a person’s social media profile. Furthermore, it is generally not permissible to gain access to non-public information from a person’s social media profile by going through a third party, such as a mutual “friend.” In these situations, the evidence obtained may not be considered admissible in court since it was not collected in a permissible way. On the other hand, screenshots of social media postings that were obtained by the prosecution or defense directly may be allowed.

Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to the gathering of social media posts as evidence is that there are scenarios where a court order may be legally obtained to access data from a social media profile that is otherwise private or not made entirely public. This is especially common in situations where public posts made by a person strongly insinuate or hint that their non-public posts could contain relevant evidence. In these cases, however, having an experienced lawyer on hand to obtain a court order for this information will be vital to the case.

A Note About Authenticity

Even upon obtaining social media evidence, it is also important to prove to the courts that the posts are 100% authentic. After all, it would not be difficult to fabricate a profile or edit a screenshot of a social media post to change its content. For this reason, it may not be enough to have just one screenshot of a purported social media post; other proof of its authenticity may be required in order for it to be admissible in court. This may mean having other witnesses testify that they saw the post in question for themselves.

In addition to proving that the post came from the claimed social media platform, it must also be proven that the post was created by the person in question. This is often easier said than done, and is yet another reason why having a legal team with experience in using social media evidence in court is so important. After all, when properly authenticated and used in court, social media posts may have the power to make or break a case.

While the handling of social media evidence in court is likely to continue changing as our use of social media evolves, it remains true that social media posts can be considered admissible evidence, so long as certain requirements are met. If you need help with a case involving social media evidence, contact Dan Carman & Attorneys, PLLC today. We handle cases across the state of Kentucky and have attorneys available in many counties to consult with you on your case.

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