It is certainly a sign of our times that people are so willing to share information so freely in their texts and emails and on social media outlets, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Naturally, these social media sites are a great resource for evidence in pending litigation. Status updates and photographs posted on social media have been used as evidence in several criminal cases, including the case of Megan Merkel, of Rochester, NY. Merkel is accused of driving drunk and killing a high school teacher. She foolishly decided to take it to Facebook in a post stating, “I was sure as hell not being a reckless driver and what happened I [couldn’t] help. So stay off my page with [your] negativity.” Individuals took a screen grab of Merkel’s post and forwarded it to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, where only a few days later, Merkel was arrested and charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter.
Not all social media posts, texts, and emails are admissible in court. A Judge can choose to either accept or reject this type of evidence if it is offered, depending on different variables, including their own subjective opinion as to whether the evidence is relevant or material to the case. Facebook certification is technically required for posts or statements published on the website to be deemed admissible – considering how easy it is for an individual’s account to be tampered with. In every case, the Judge has discretion about the actual admissibility regarding emails, texting, and social media.