Should Defense Attorneys Be Allowed Access to Social Media Accounts?

Posted on July 14th, 2018 By

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Social media is an important part of day-to-day life in this modern technological era. It is so important that lawyers, judges and courts are recognizing these posts as valuable evidence. However, not all sides of a courtroom proceeding have equal access to such information. That may be changing thanks to a new ruling from the California Supreme Court.

Are Social Media Accounts Fair Game for Defense Attorneys?

When it comes to social media evidence, police and prosecutors often find little resistance. They are able to acquire social media communications through warrants and subpoenas. However, if a defense attorney would like to use such communications in court, it must first be authenticated by the media company or social media user. This has proven a problem for defenses.

When subpoenaing records from these media companies, their requests are often ignored. The media company often cites the Stored Communications Act, which is a federal law limiting the disclosure of electronically stored information. This could soon change.

On May 24th, the California Supreme Court ruled that public posts on a user’s social media account may be subpoenaed by defense lawyers. This overturned an appeals court decision that defense attorneys could not force media companies to comply with said subpoenas. The case in question will now be sent back to trial court where the details of the case can be hammered out.

This verdict comes as a victory to defense attorneys who have been fighting for this kind of access since 2008. It levels the playing field between the defense and the prosecution, allowing the accused to have a fair day in court. To learn more about your rights when defending yourself from criminal charges, keep following the criminal defense blog at the Law Offices of Richard Wingerden.