Dozens of people every year get arrested for crimes because they either brag about the crime or post evidence of it on social media. If you are arrested for a crime in New Jersey because of evidence you posted to social media, you should talk to an attorney. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych help clients throughout New Jersey fight their charges in court.
How People Get Caught for Crime on Social Media
In a recent New Jersey case, a 27 year old was arrested for posting a story of his drug crimes on Reddit. The popular website allows users to make lengthy text, picture, and video posts. This defendant posted the story of his drug trafficking experience as if it were a fake story. This “story” is now being used as evidence against him for drug charges.
In a more remarkable case from a few years ago, a drunk driver tweeted about his crime while committing it. In that case, the driver’s Twitter posts alerted police to his location and crime, where he was arrested. In a more national news story, four teens were arrested for attacking a mentally challenged man. They were caught because they streamed the torture and abuse using Facebook Live.
These are pretty glaring examples of how social media can lead to arrests, but even less obvious things can help police track down suspects. As part of their investigations, many police and detectives will scroll through social media posts looking for evidence. Pictures of people can help witnesses and police identify suspects. Photos of cars and other property can help police locate vehicles and buildings involved in crimes. Personally identifying things like names, nicknames, or graffiti tags can help point police to specific people, too.
Always think before posting to social media. In many cases, the people posting may not be aware that they are doing anything illegal. In other cases, the posts themselves are the illegal act.
Cyber bullying and threats are often delivered over the Internet. In many cases, the people think that using the Internet will help keep them anonymous. Many times, they are mistaken. The Internet often leaves a trail the police can follow back to the original sender or poster of material. This is often how people who use the internet to threaten, bully, or share explicit pictures are caught.
Defendants are Not Protected from Their Posts
Many people think that the “right to remain silent” might help protect them from their own posts. The “right to remain silent” is part of the landmark Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the Court declared that before a police officer interrogates a suspect that they have in custody, they must warn them that they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The key to this case is that it only applies to interrogations while the suspect is in custody.
When police look at your social media, they are neither interrogating you, nor are you in custody. This means that they can take any statements you make on social media and turn them into evidence. There is no need to warn suspects of their Miranda rights before looking at their social media accounts, whether they are public or private.
On top of that, the New Jersey Rules of Evidence actually allow the defendant’s own statements to be used against them. New Jersey Rule of Evidence 802 blocks “hearsay” from being used as evidence in court. Rule 801 defines “hearsay,” as any statement made outside of court that is used as evidence that what it says is true. For instance, a social media post saying, “I killed Jeff last night,” would be hearsay if used to prove the poster killed Jeff.
Unfortunately for defendants, Rule 803 has exceptions to the hearsay rule to allow some hearsay to be used as evidence. Any “statement by [a] party-opponent” is admissible as evidence. That means anything that the other side said outside court can be used against them in court. As the defendant, anything you said on social media can be used as evidence against you.
On top of this, only “statements” have these kinds of rules. Pictures and videos are not statements, and are not protected by these rules. That means that any visuals you post online could be used as evidence.
Our attorneys have experience with New Jersey’s laws on collecting and using evidence. Sometimes police need search warrants to get evidence, even from social media. A “motion to suppress” may be able to keep illegally obtained evidence out of the courts. That means that if police hacked or wrongly obtained your evidence, we might be able to keep it away from a jury.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been charged with a crime, contact an attorney today. If you were caught because of things you posted online, or your crime involved an online post, our attorneys will fight to stop that evidence. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent clients throughout New Jersey and fight to get their charges dropped. Call for a free consultation at (609) 616-4956.