I remember having a cell phone at an early age, but social media did not really develop into what it is now until years later. It wasn’t until the development of applications that you started seeing people glued to their phones. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to any coffee shop. You will see everyone staring at their phones the entire time, even if they are sitting with friends. Applications brought games, social media, and many other distractions from the real world. As far as impact in your personal cases, social media has had an increasing impact in and out of the courtroom, especially since the development of smartphones. Today I want to give a few instances where I have seen social media having a game-changing impact on cases. See below:
As far as personal injury cases, I have had cases where a semi-truck driver was using their cell-phone by watching videos (*I’ll leave the type up to your imagination) and then crashed into our client at a high rate of speed. We were able to pull cell phone data and determine that, not only was the defendant driver watching a video at the time of the wreck but immediately prior to the wreck large amounts of data were going through his phone because he was using various social media applications as he was driving. Not only were we able to prove negligence but the possibility of gross negligence led to a favorable settlement for the client. In another case, I had a client who passed away due to a semi running a stop sign. There was an eyewitness who wrote on the local news page that he saw the semi run the stop sign and how the driver didn’t even hit his brakes until way down the road! (Yes, we dig into even the comment sections of local news posts looking for witnesses to wrecks.) I was able to contact the witness via social media and get a statement, which led to the company of the driver admitting fault immediately.
In criminal law, social media has become a huge problem for defense attorneys. Clients use these platforms to communicate freely and sometimes find themselves getting too comfortable and disclosing information about a crime to someone, if not everyone. Side note: If you are going to purchase marijuana, aka weed, then please do so without posting it publicly on Facebook. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it has happened more than once. Remember that just because you don’t have the message on your social media anymore doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Recently, I had a case where a client was accused of an assault-domestic. The “victim” got on the stand and started talking about the alleged assault. She then tried to show a bunch of photos of her on the day of the assault that she uploaded to Facebook, but we pointed out that she had completely different clothing on, clothing that still had blood on it
The biggest social media dagger has to be in relation to family law. A majority of divorces and custody battles now utilize social media to prove the other person’s fault in the divorce or to prove they are an unfit parent. I’ve had cases where our entire case was not based upon witnesses, but instead, we used the other party’s social media. Let me give you an example: Parent A goes out to a bar with friends. Parent A then “checks in” at the bar with a bunch of friends. Parent A does not share any photos of her time at the bar, but she wrote a very badly worded post between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. On the day of court, I question Parent A about her late nights out with friends when she is supposed to have her kids. Parent A denies going out and drinking with friends. Drinking when in possession of the children would be a violation of the temporary orders. I then pulled photos from her tagged friends of her holding multiple different alcoholic beverages at different times throughout the night. I then question her about a photo of her holding a clear cup with what appears to be beer in it up to the camera while sitting next to a “beer tower.” Last, I asked her why she was unable to spell basic words in her post, and then followed up by asking if it was because she was drunk? That case did not go so well for Parent A, all because of social media.
Things you should know about social media:
- 9 out of 10 American adults use the internet. 69% of all adults use Facebook.
- Non-governmental parties cannot subpoena private account information. Governmental parties, like prosecutors, can.
- Snapchat is only private if you do not save or store your memories. Some users have their memories automatically stored, which means people can access that later or the government can use it against you later.
- Want to know more? Set a consult.