By Stephen Sebald

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media accounts govern the way we communicate, share information, and interact with others. Law enforcement officers are taking advantage of this “trend” to catch suspects. They are using fake IDs to create social network profiles to gather information and evidence from people of interest. Prosecutors “follow” or “friend” suspects under fictitious names to search their personal and private information and talk to them.

These “sham” sting operations have become the next battle in the ongoing privacy wars. Searching social network accounts for information is not only a violation of user’s privacy, but also their constitutional rights. It is a search that requires a warrant. As American citizens, we are protected from unreasonable search and seizures through the Fourth Amendment. A warrant or probable cause must be obtained for any search, regardless of the means. Going undercover online is no exception to the law. By doing so, police are breaching sites’ terms of use that state that any information disclosed must be done so under proper legal procedures.

Any evidence obtained from a search without a warrant does not follow the proper legal process that law enforcement is expected to respect. The court must dismiss any information gathered this way and it will not be used against the defendant.

Don’t let prosecutors take advantage of your constitutional rights! If you are a victim of these sham sting operations contact Erie, Pennsylvania’s experienced defense attorneys at Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox for a free initial phone consultation. (814) 833-1987.