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Social Media: What You Say Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Law


Within the last few years social media outlets have changed the way we live and communicate with others. It seems that everyone who has a computer or smart phone is engaging in communication via social media with friends, family, co-workers, and others. It is part of human nature to communicate and social media is just the newest outlet. However, more than friends and family are following what you disseminate over the wi-fi highway - and some of what you post or tweet might land you in jail.

In one case, James Ellis was charged with perjury by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office following an incident in which he was shot nine times. He gave a statement to the police after he was shot. Later, Ellis appeared before a grand jury and testified about the incident under oath. However, it appears that Ellis was not completely forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and the shooting victim became a perjury defendant.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, authorities accessed Ellis's Facebook posts, in which he wrote about the shooting. The version of the shooting on Facebook was inconsistent with Ellis's grand jury testimony. This led to his arrest for perjury.

More and more, prosecutors and detectives are searching social media looking for profiles of their suspects that they can use against them in court. At a sentencing recently in Philadelphia, an Assistant District Attorney came to court with Twitter feeds from a defendant, who had been, and I kid you not, "tweeting" from court while the trial was in progress. Those tweets included some not so nice comments about the judge. You can guess what happened when the judge had the chance to sentence that defendant after reading those tweets.

Detectives use social media to develop leads in cases, gather evidence, and identify suspects, witnesses and victims. There are numerous examples of cases where a person is accused of using social media to try and contact an underage child for criminal purposes. When investigators access to that suspect's computer and social media and e-mail accounts, the first complaint turns out to be the tip of the iceberg as many other incidents are discovered.

If you have been charged with, or suspect that you or someone you know are a target of an investigation related to computer crimes, you should immediately contact a lawyer who has experience with the defense of these cases. Mike Parkinson, Tim Tarpey and Jim Lloyd are criminal defense attorneys and former prosecutors with more than 40 years of experience. Even if the crime does not involve computers, there may be evidence which can help you, or hurt you in cyberspace. Speaking with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney is the only way to understand your rights and protect yourself.

Call today for a free consultation at (215) 352-3432.