It used to be that criminals tried to hide their misdeeds, you know, like so they wouldn’t get caught.
But apparently social media has changed all that, and criminals are finding it ever more difficult to resist the urge to broadcast their latest illicit exploits to friends, family, and the viewing public.
In one recent case, a gun-toting Vancouver man posted a 4-minute video on Youtube starring himself driving around recklessly in an allegedly stolen car, showing off a 9 mm pistol and what looked like an assault rifle, then firing a .45 automatic out the window. He also alerted Facebook users that the video was up and ready for viewing.
Local police must have gotten the status update too.
Understandably, 23-year-old Ronnie Wynn, who calls himself “Ron Gotti,” may be relatively new to the gangsta life and was not properly tutored on the fact that police use computers too.
Wynn, who is already in jail for crashing a stolen car, now faces charges of possessing a stolen vehicle, burglary and two counts of firearm theft.
According to Donald E. Kelly, a New York criminal defense attorney, all the new digital tools are giving criminals “much more opportunity to be stupid than ever before.”
“It’s not enough to be a criminal anymore. Now, you have to show off how tough you are, how bad-ass you are. It’s just out-and-out stupidity. It makes my job more difficult,” said Kelly.
What’s Private, What’s Not
A lot of what you send out into the digital universe is readily discoverable as evidence even if it’s on a device like a cell phone, Kelly warns.
You have very little right to privacy when it comes to your cell phone, and police may not even need a warrant to search it.
For example, Kelly represented a man charged with illegally possessing guns and money. He denied he ever had any guns or money, but his cell phone contained photos of him posing with gun in hand and piles of cash laying around.
Prosecutors got a warrant to search the phone, the pictures came out at trial, and his client was toast.
While it might seem obvious, if you post photos, tweets, Facebook updates and Youtube videos publicly, you have no privacy protection.
Jed Silverman, a Houston criminal defense attorney, tells all his clients to take their social media pages down.
A Facebook page or Youtube video can be easily deleted as long as nobody copied it first. If police want to recover deleted pages from a computer, they would have to get a warrant to search the computer, Kelly said.
But once police get access to public web pages, as in the case of our man Gotti, you can fuggedaboutit.
“There’s no way from a defense standpoint he is going to be able to block [the video] as evidence,” Kelly said. “The guy posted it for everyone to see.”