Facing criminal charges? Beware of what you post on Facebook

The explosion of social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, in recent years has affected our lives more so than we ever would have ever anticipated.

Facebook, for instance, was originally created as an outlet for college students to connect with roommates. Now, over 10 years later, the popular social platform has over a billion worldwide subscribers and active users of all ages who possess the ability to post and share pictures, videos and thoughts to masses of people-all in an instant.

Unfortunately, when it comes to prosecuting crimes, authorities are using social media status updates as evidence to convict.

Real life instances throughout the country

In the high profile case many of us are familiar with involving Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who stood trial for the first-degree murder of her 2 year old daughter in 2008, authorities attempted to introduce evidence to prove Anthony's state of mind. They offered pictures Anthony posted of herself and others on her newsfeed smiling and dancing at a nightclub soon after her daughter went missing in the hopes of proving that, at the time of her daughter's disappearance, she was "a killer without remorse instead of a grieving mother in search of her missing daughter."

In another instance, prosecutors were able to secure a guilty verdict for a Memphis man charged with theft based in large part on the introduction of pictures he posted on Facebook of the alleged stolen items in question.

In one case that received nationwide attention, a Virginia Beach man facing murder charges posted a violent video on YouTube that showed the man rapping. Prosecutors introduced the clip as evidence. He was later convicted and handed a 25 year prison sentence.

Although these are just a few highlights, this list goes on and on.

Aren't status updates private?

Some, however, argue that people should not be that concerned; any Facebook user can set his or her privacy settings to make sure the photos or information is not viewed or read by the public. The user can also easily delete the post if necessary.

But what people may not know is that this information is and can be uncovered by a search warrant or subpoena. And even if authorities are not successful in obtaining the information via official methods, they can obtain information through more indirect means, such as contacting the user's "friends" and speaking with them.

The bottom line: Every person should be aware of what they are posting on Facebook and other social media platforms. They evidence could later be used in a court of law.

Along with criminal cases, defense attorneys have also been known to introduce and use social media status updates and photos to prove, for instance, that a plaintiff is lying about or exaggerating an injury he or she is seeking damages for.