Dangers of Social Media and Potential Criminal Charges that Follow

How Social Media Can Lead to Criminal Charges in NJ

The rise of social media over the last decade has been extremely impactful  to say the least on the way in which our society operates. Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat have drastically changed the way in which people communicate throughout the world. It is evident that there are countless different ways in which these platforms can be used to benefit society but unfortunately, sometimes these platforms are used to facilitate crimes. The anonymity that people can operate under in the digital world makes social media sites very vulnerable to criminal activity. To make matters worse, as technology advances, these platforms tend to leave a digital footprint that can lead right back to a specific individual. Over the years we have seen countless individuals be charged with criminal offenses because of these digital footprints. One of the first things that law enforcement agencies do once they have become aware of a crime that is being facilitated by social media is issue a subpoena. Their hope is that if they are able to secure all the records from the specific platform, that it will capture a digital footprint that will lead directly to their suspect. All too often individuals feel invisible because of their ability to hide behind a “fake account” but the advancements in law enforcement over the years have really changed the way in which these crimes are investigated and prosecuted. If you have been accused of a crime involving social media in Monmouth County or elsewhere in New Jersey, we strongly urge that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Although there have been significant advancements made by law enforcement over the years, these cases can be very difficult to prove in a courtroom. A lot of these cases are built on circumstantial evidence and this can allow for an attorney with a background in the tech world the ability to pick apart the State’s case.

Common Crimes Charged as a Result of Social Media Sites in Monmouth County

Although the illegal conduct that can be facilitated by a social media site is endless, there are a number of crimes that we often in Monmouth County. By far one of the most common crimes that we see being issued as a result of social media is cyber-harassment. In fact, cyber-harassment was only enacted within the last decade in an effort to attempt to counter the rise of social media. It took conduct that would have otherwise been classified as harassment, which is considered a petty disorderly persons offense, the lowest level criminal offense in New Jersey and elevated it to a fourth degree felony. In relation to a cyber-harassment charge, we also see individual’s being charged with stalking and terroristic threats. Not to mention, these types of allegations also lead to the issuance of temporary restraining orders, that is provided the alleged victim falls under New Jersey Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Another common crime that we have been seeing over the last few years originate from social media sites is not only the possession of child pornography but the distribution as well. These offense fall under the NJSA 2C:24-4, which is endangering the welfare of a child. It probably goes without saying but these are very serious offenses and the potential penalties for them can be life changing. It is also no secret by now that law enforcement has been extremely proactive when it comes to investigating these crimes. That is due in large part to the uprise in commission of these types offenses, which unfortunately can be directly related to availability to distribute it on social media.

Another common offense that we see being facilitated by social media is theft by deception. Social media sites have become a hot spot for individuals to seek out and uncover vulnerable people to run their theft related schemes on. In other words, these sites normally are used to create an initial connection with an individual, who will later fall victim of some type of theft scam. Most of these scams are facilitated by convincing the other party that there is some type of emergency going on and that they must send money to help. Just like child pornography charges, these types of schemes have become very common over the years. Again this is due in large part because social media sites allows these schemes to be operated from around the world. In fact, it is rare to see these types of crimes being committed by an individual who actually resides in the same State as the victim. In an effort to combat them, once law enforcement uncovers the scheme, they make a very conscious effort to publicize it.

How Social Media Posts are Being Used in Courtrooms Throughout New Jersey

Social media sites and more specifically, individual’s profiles tend to be one of the first thing that law enforcement will look too when investigating a crime. Unfortunately, all too often people forget that once they post something on social media, it is now available for the world to see. That can be the case regardless if they eventually delete the post, as all it takes is one person to screenshot it or a subpoena to be issued to recover that post. Here are some of the examples of how social media could be used in a courtroom.

  • Statement Against the Defendant:
    One of the more common ways that social media posts have been used in a courtroom over the years is when it is being treated as a statement by the defendant. The posts can be used as not only direct evidence but they can also be used to help establish the motive and intent of an individual too. The posts, aka the statement, does not have to be a confession to be damaging, often times the statements are used to connect the circumstantial evidence, which can equally as devastating. Numerous times over the years specific posts have been used as evidence against our clients in cases like harassment, terroristic threats, stalking and cyber-harassment.  We also see posts being used routinely in domestic violence restraining order hearings as well. This type of evidence be can extremely damaging to an individual’s case and need to be challenged in every aspect.
  • Photos to Establish Possession:
    Another common way that social media posts have been used in a courtroom is to seek to establish “possession” by an individual. Over the years we have seen individual posts, typically when they have a specific item in their possession, such as a gun, be used against them when maybe “possession” can be in disputed in their case. Here is an example: A motor vehicle containing four passengers is stopped for a routine traffic violation. A search of the car is ultimately conducted and a handgun is located in the trunk. Everybody inside the motor vehicle denies ownership of the gun. If a social media post by one of the individual’s depicts them in possession of the same gun, it could potentially be used against them in an effort to establish possession at trial for a gun charge.
  • Profiles to Uncover the Identity of a Suspect:
    Social media profiles are also being used by law enforcement in attempt to identity a specific suspect as well. Here is an example: The police are actively investigating an armed robbery that involved three suspects that was caught on camera. Through traditional investigative means, they are able to identify and arrest one of the suspects but he is unwilling to turn on his two accomplices.  They will now turn to that individual’s social media profiles in an effort to potential uncover the identity of the other suspects. This is just one of the potential ways that law enforcement will turn to social media profiles to help secure the arrest and conviction of an individual.

Looking to Speak to a Lawyer about Combating Social Media Related Crimes in Freehold NJ

If you have been charged with a crime that is largely being alleged as a result of social media related evidence, the Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. We have represented numerous client’s, for various crimes, that have been largely based on social media type of evidence. We defend these types of cases in Courts throughout Monmouth County, including towns like Middletown, Marlboro, Manalapan, West Long Branch, Wall Township, Hazlet, Tinton Falls, Red Bank, Ocean Township and Asbury Park. If you would like to have an initial consultation with one of our Monmouth County criminal defense attorneys today, please call us at 732-858-6959.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.