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Can Social Media be used as Evidence in Florida Courts

Be careful what you post. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp are all social networking sites that millions of people are accessing, and the contents of which may be introduced as evidence in a case against you.

In 2014, the First District Court of Appeal, allowed a defendant access to cell phone records, including GPS. This case involved a wrongful death suit arising out of a fatal car accident where the defendant wanted access to the decedent’s cell phone records in order to allow its expert to show that the decedent had been on the cell phone at the time of the accident. The defendant sought to use the GPS from the phone to determine whether the decedent had stopped at the stop sign, and what the decedent had done leading up to the fatal accident. The defendant also wanted access to the decedent’s cell phone to determine whether or not the decedent had been on the phone at the time of the accident, and if so, was the decedent texting, on Facebook, or accessing some other social media site.

In 2015, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court order requiring a woman who claimed she slipped and fell in a Target to provide copies or screenshots to Target of all her photographs associated with her Facebook account for two years prior to the alleged fall occurring. The appellate court found that social networking site content is neither privileged nor protected.

What does this mean in terms of your social media posts or posts that you are tagged in or mentioned in? Well, it means that social media posts could potentially be used in dissolution of marriages, family law cases, civil cases, personal injury cases, auto accident cases, and criminal cases.

While access to the information is not the same as having the posts introduced into evidence, in Florida, the general rule is that “[a]ll relevant evidence is admissible, except as provided by law.” Relevant evidence is defined as “evidence tending to prove or disprove a material fact” and will be admitted unless “its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.”