Whenever a person is charged with a crime, that person's defense attorney will advise him or her not to talk about the case to family or friends. This is especially true of driving under the influence (DUI) cases dealing with allegations of drinking and driving or use of drugs. A major hazard in the modern age is the use of social media. Anything posted on a social media website could be used against you at trial.
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI in Georgia, an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney can defend your case and protect your rights.
Use of Social Media by Georgia Law Enforcement
Social media has become a gold mine of information for Georgia law enforcement in DUI cases. Law enforcement officers commonly use social media accounts of defendants to investigate a criminal case, looking for incriminating information. As social media use has become more prevalent, so has its use in court to prove the guilt of a person for the crime charged.
Most people begin to post on social media without ever realizing how the night might turn out. What started out as an innocent post about being at a bar with friends could be used against you later at a criminal trial. By avoiding social media posts, you can reduce the amount of evidence the state of Georgia has against you in your DUI case.
Drunk Driving and Social Media
Social media is a part of the fabric of modern life. Nearly every person has some form of social media account. These accounts could include, but are not limited to:
- Dating websites
How people use these social media websites can lead to a significant danger of evidence that could be used against them in court. Prosecutors are known to get very creative in the ways they both find and use social media in court against you.
Some of these include:
- A man live-streamed himself drinking and driving and was clearly under the influence at the time he was filming. Another person who witnessed the live stream called police to report it. That individual even helped police locate the inebriated driver.
- A woman "checked-in" at various bars downtown and posted a video of her drunkenly singing karaoke. This was later used as evidence against her in her DUI trial.
- One woman posted a picture of herself in the car with an open can of beer. This was a violation of open container laws.
- One individual even posted that he was out drinking and driving the night before and had crashed his vehicle.
These types of admissions or other evidence on social media can be used against you in court. Prosecutors can use this evidence to show that you were drinking in the hours leading up to your arrest or even that you were obviously intoxicated close in time to your arrest. This can be strong evidence that you were drunk at the time you were driving.
My Account is "Private." Am I Safe?
No. Not even a little. Although a very public account makes law enforcement's job of looking at your profile easier, putting your account on private will not deter them from getting into your account to take a look. Even when your site is set to "only friends," those friends my share the photo or also be tagged in it. Their accounts may not be so well protected and could be accessed by Georgia law enforcement officers.
Also, there are constant updates to social media software that can unexpectedly change what appears publicly and what appears privately. This can mean that information you sought to keep private made it out into the easily discoverable public domain.
Can Police Get a Search Warrant?
Even assuming your privacy setting are working perfectly correctly, does not mean that law enforcement will not be able to gain access to your social media accounts. Police can obtain a search warrant to access your accounts. A search warrant is a legal document that allows law enforcement to search through your personal and private information on social media. They can do this when they convince a judge there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime exists on your social media account.
If a search warrant is illegally obtained, any evidence produced as a result of it can be kept out through a suppression motion. This type of motion can greatly protect you from illegally discovered and collected evidence.
"Deleted" Posts on Social Media
One of the most common mistaken beliefs by those with social media accounts is that their "deleted" posts are gone forever. In fact, while deleting a post may make it a little more difficult to find, they are not in fact gone forever. There is no way to destroy anything in total once it has been posted on social media.
There is no way to guarantee that posts that appear on social media will eventually disappear, even when that is exactly what is promised by the social media provider. A law enforcement officer with the right type of training and experience may be able to find that evidence, even when it has been "deleted."
Further, if you already know that an investigation is taking place, you could place yourself in legal jeopardy by deleting posts. This area of law can be a little complicated, but if you believe the police may be investigating you after an arrest, you should consult with an attorney before deleting any posts. Failure to do so could result in further criminal charges against you for attempting to destroy evidence.
Consult an Experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney
Social media can present a unique danger to a person in terms of evidence used at trial. Prosecutors are clever in how they can use evidence to "prove" you were intoxicated. You need an even more clever defense attorney to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.