Social media is one of the greatest inventions of the last 100 years. Not only can you share your life with more people than ever, but you can also keep a digital photo album of your experiences. Talking with people around the world can be fun, but the legal implications of social media accounts are still being worked out. When the police show up at someone’s door, the last thing that they want to worry about is what they posted online coming back to bite them. It leads many people to ask, “Can social media posts be used as evidence in Georgia court cases?”
Yes, digital evidence, including social media posts, can be submitted as evidence in Georgia court cases. They are subject to the same rules as other types of evidence and will be rejected if they violate those rules.
You can rest assured that if you go to court, your entire social media history should not be admitted to evidence. Instead, prosecutors can select only those posts that fit strict, two-step criteria. No matter how much of your social media presence they see, and no matter how they feel about it, their options for submitting evidence are strictly limited.
Evidence used in court cases must meet two specific criteria to be admitted as evidence. It does not matter what type of evidence it is, be it digital, physical, or otherwise. If it does not fit the criteria, it cannot be used during the trial.
That’s not to say that it cannot be submitted to the court to be used as evidence. However, courts pre-approve evidence in most cases before it is introduced in a jury trial. Your irrelevant social media posts may be submitted to the court, but they will likely be rejected if they don’t qualify as evidence. In this case, any posts that are rejected should not impact the outcome of your case.
The first criterion that any post must meet is relevance to the case. This is the more common reason for evidence to be rejected.
It means that only evidence that is related to the current case can be submitted and approved. For example, a DUI case would likely accept posts about how drunk you are getting at the party before a DUI but reject posts about your sixth birthday party. The posts about getting drunk at a party are relevant if the DUI happens right after that party. The posts about your sixth birthday party have nothing to do with your case and should be rejected.
The second step in the approval of evidence in a court case is determining if that evidence is authentic. This is somewhat difficult for social media posts because of content and access to accounts.
Imagine a post that is submitted for evidence of you sitting in your car with a keg in the passenger seat and a cup of beer in your hand. The post clearly looks edited together by an amateur, and it was taken off of your friend’s Instagram account. This is evidence that will likely be rejected because of concerns over authenticity.
Firstly, the picture looks edited by an amateur. If the post seems fake in any way, the court can find it to be inauthentic. It doesn’t help that the evidence from the DUI also doesn’t support this photo being authentic because the contents are outrageous, and the keg was not mentioned in the report from the officer. If the court doubts evidence is real, unedited in a way that makes it prejudicial or cannot confirm its authenticity, it is not likely to be accepted.
Secondly, the picture came from an unreliable source, your friend, who is likely the author of the picture. It would be more credible if it came from your social media account, but a third-party source undercuts that reliability.
Evidence in all criminal cases is subject to the same rules as everything else, which is why having a good criminal defense attorney makes a difference in your case. A good attorney can make sure that improper social media evidence is excluded and build a case with good evidence to get you a better outcome.
If you or someone that you know has been charged with a crime in Dalton, Georgia, don’t hesitate to contact Joshua J. Smith Attorney at Law by calling us at (706) 217-2095 or filling out our contact form.