The First Three Social Media Cases of 2012

At least three different courts released opinions dealing with social media during the first week of January 2012.  The variety of these opinions demonstrates that social media will continue to influence every facet of law in the coming year.

Evidence Law

State v. Altajir, 2012 Conn. Lexis 2 (Supreme Court of Connecticut, Jan. 3, 2012).   At Altajir’s probation revocation hearing, the prosecution introduced 36 photographs from her Facebook page.  They were intended to demonstrate that Altajir had been “worshipping at the altar of alcohol and debauchery and lewd behavior,” and had not learned the lesson of her criminal conviction.

The Connecticut Supreme Court struggled with the question of whether or not this evidence should have been admitted, because the prosecution had done absolutely nothing to authenticate them or prove their reliability.  Ultimately, however, the Court upheld the trial judge’s decision to consider the photos.  The court did note that the photos would not have passed the evidentiary test in a trial, but the standards are lower in a probation revocation hearing.  Moreover, Altajir did not deny the pictures’ authenticity or show anything to suggest that they were unreliable.

Judicial Misbehavior

Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 2012 Mass. App. Lexis 3 (Jan. 4. 2012).   Doe appealed his classification as a sex offender.  One of his arguments was that the hearing officer who made the determination later posted “inappropriate comments” about Doe’s case on a coworker’s Facebook page.  The court called the hearing officer’s actions “most unfortunate” that impugned the “dignity” of the judicial process, but nevertheless did not find that the hearing officer should have recused herself.

Sex Crimes

US v. Anderson, 2012 US App Lexis 60 (8th Cir. Jan. 4, 2012).  The fact pattern of this case has become far too run-of-the-mill.   A 13-year-old girl met Anderson, an adult male, on Facebook, and ended up sleeping with him.  The girl’s mother found out and contacted the police.  They obtained a search warrant for Anderson’s Facebook account, and discovered more than 800 private chats, mostly with teenaged girls. Several of these referenced alcohol and partying with young girls.  Some contained “inappropriate pictures” and asked for similar photos in return.  This evidence was more than enough to support a severe sentencing recommendation and sex offender status.

Stay tuned to see what the rest of the year brings….