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Use Of Social Media In Criminal Investigations Tuesday, June 10, 2014 by Michele Finizio

It has been reported that over 80% of 1,200 law enforcement officers surveyed report that they have used social media in criminal investigations. They advise that information posted on the popular social media sites Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or Snapchat can be key evidence in any type of criminal investigation.

During the course of a criminal investigation, social media can be used to:

  • Discover or strengthen new evidence
  • Locate key witnesses or suspects
  • Find connections between victims and perpetrators
  • Confirm alibis of suspects
  • Find incriminating statements, pictures or videos posted by perpetrators

Several recent high profile criminal cases highlight the importance of social media in police investigations. Former professional football player Brian Holloway notified police of criminal misconduct occurring at his home when he was out of town after seeing pictures on social media leading to several arrests. Social media has been used also to track down "bash mobs" after the George Zimmerman murder acquittal.

Caution for All Social Media Users

Individuals posting to social media sites must always remember that the information they share is never really private, regardless of any "privacy" settings and never goes away. Even deleted comments, pictures and videos, which often remain on the internet in archive or cached forms, can be discovered by even the most basic internet search programs.

In response to the increased use of social media by law enforcement, new software programs have been designed to assist police departments in tracking down evidence on social media websites. In light of this new technology, assume that everything you see or do on social media can be seen, and will be used against you, by law enforcement.

If you have been accused of a crime or are under criminal investigation, the safest course of action is to restrain entirely from the use of social media. At the minimum, do not post anything even slightly related to the crime or investigation on any social media site. Declaring yourself innocent on social media does not help your case and in most instances can result in unintended adverse consequences.

Timothy E. Zerillo has been included in every edition of New England Super Lawyers since 2010, for his Super Lawyers page, go to http://www.superlawyers.com/maine/lawyer/Timothy-E-Zerillo/ab011be9-fc96-44e9-ad28-3956da48c1b4.html

Timothy E. Zerillo has a 10 out of 10 rating from AVVO.com - for his ratings page, go to http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/04112-me-timothy-zerillo-1844626.html

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