How Police May Use Social Media in Illinois Criminal Cases

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family and share what is going on in your life. However, there is a downside to social media use if you are a suspect in a crime or were arrested on criminal charges. There are ways to prevent negative social media use as you should be careful when you post certain information online. It is important to work with a knowledgeable Illinois criminal defense attorney to build your defense, and to follow his or her advice regarding your social media use.

How Police Use Social Media Information in Investigations

Illinois law enforcement has already made significant strides in developing strategies for reviewing social media profiles in solving crimes. Plus, police continue to find innovative, creative tactics for investigating suspects through social media platforms. Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are effective for the law enforcement community because:

  • Officers have access to the same tools, features, and permissions as the average user. They can go to a suspect’s profile to see whom that person is communicating with, track locations, and determine the presence of criminal activity.
  • Police do not need a search warrant to investigate your profile, comments, images, video, “Likes,” “Shares,” and other content. Constitutional protections against illegal searches do not apply because this material is available to the public, for the world to see.
  • Authorities do not need special investigative equipment or administrative rights to access the information you post online. The technology is readily available to anyone with a computer, smartphone, or tablet – and an internet connection.

Social Media and Sentencing

Your social media profile can also haunt you if you have already been convicted, and it comes time for sentencing. Character evidence can be a factor when a judge is issuing an order for prison time, probation, and/or fines. If your Facebook profile reveals affiliation with drugs, guns, gangs or other illegal activity, you could receive a harsher sentence.

Protect Your Rights

To avoid making too much information public and available to law enforcement, a few tips may help prevent your online activities from being used against you:

  • Anything you share is fair game: Even when you have got the highest privacy settings, anything you post online is vulnerable to viewing. The internet is forever, and privacy settings will not protect you. Someone can always capture a screenshot of your content, even when you share it privately. They can then share it themselves.
  • Do not brag about criminal acts or illegal affiliations: Many offenders make the mistake of boasting about their crimes to boost their reputations. This information can be used against you in police investigations and during sentencing.
  • Never communicate about future criminal conduct: By sharing information about criminal activity, you are giving police a roadmap to your arrest.

Consult with an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney About Social Media in Your Case

What you post on social media is almost always available to the general public. The police can use this information to locate you, arrest you, and convict you, and it could even impact your sentencing. However, if you are already facing charges based upon your online activities, you need a skilled lawyer to protect your rights.

For more information on your defense options, please contact Glasgow & Olsson in Schaumburg, IL. We represent clients in Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, and Kane Counties in a wide range of criminal matters. You can reach our office to schedule a consultation by calling 847-577-8700 or completing our online form.

(image courtesy of Jay Wennington)

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