Guilty Before Trial: Social Media & Court Cases

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As social media has become a major part of our lives, it should come as no surprise that courts have used networking sites as a source of evidence. With this being said, here’s a look at how social media has had an influence in court cases.

Cases Involving Social Media

There are a few cases that add context as to how social media can be used in court for (or against) the plaintiff or defendant. Such important cases are:

Zimmerman v. Weis Markets, Inc. – This was a personal injury case that took place in 2011. Zimmerman claimed that he was involved in a forklift accident that had permanently damaged his health. However, the employer discovered that Zimmerman had private information on his Facebook account that filled the holes in his story.

Further investigation revealed that his interests were “bike stunts” and “riding”, which eventually led to the employer finding out that he was actually in a motorcycle accident (that had nothing to do with their forklift). The judge allowed the information in court and it was used to refute the plaintiff’s claim.

 

Romano v. Steelcase Inc. – This was a personal injury case that took place in 2010. Romano claimed that she was confined to her home and her bed due to injuries sustained at work. However, it was discovered that much of her information on Facebook and MySpace showed photos of her smiling and enjoying herself from anywhere but home.

As she marked her information private, the court ruled that she was hiding behind self-set privacy controls to block the opposing party from knowing what was really going on with her life.

Ingrid & Isabel, LLC v. Baby Be Mine, LLC – This was a trademark infringement case from 2014. A product named Belly Band was very similar to the trademarked product named Bella Band. The court then compelled the information between the Facebook/Twitter accounts of Belly Band and deemed the information as evidence for the trademark infringement case.

Social Media is Being Used in Criminal Cases as Well

Sluss v. Commonwealth – A Kentucky man, Ross Sluss, had his murder conviction reversed when it was shown during the appeals process that two of his jurors were ‘Facebook friends’ with the mother of the victim.

Dimas-Martinez v. State – Erickson Dimas-Martinez had his murder conviction overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court when his attorneys were able to show that a juror was ‘live tweeting’ about the case before the trial had completed.

Utilizing Social Media Information

The key element of utilizing social media in a court case is making sure that the evidence is received in a permissible manner. For example, it’s inappropriate to “friend” someone or bypass privacy settings to retrieve information. If the information is private, you may be able to utilize a “good faith belief” that the information is relevant so it can be utilized in the case.

Weather or not the use of social media will help or hurt your case, criminal charges should never be faced without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.  The Hill Law Firm will work diligently to help you prove your innocence, and make sure all protocols are followed during any possible jury trials.  Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

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