ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Criminals are often caught when they brag about their exploits on social media; but can those posts be used in their criminal case? Thursday the state Supreme Court clarified the guidelines for using that evidence in court.
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The court ruled social media evidence used in a trial needs to rise to the same level of authentication as other evidence. Law enforcement says this is really helpful since social media is a factor in many cases.
“You see a lot of these people boasting about their crimes and showing pictures of them shooting their guns and they’re showing off their money and their drugs, even after committing a crime,” says Gilbert Gallegos, spokesperson for Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
At APD, social media is playing an increasingly important role in catching criminals. Gallegos says the rise of influencer culture has criminals posting all about their crimes—which is a help to their investigations. He says use of social media evidence has become the norm, and in many cases is expected to substantiate a crime.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials are seeing the usefulness of social media in cases, too.
“Drug trafficking has changed,” says Greg Millard, Special Agent In Charge, DEA El Paso, “they’re using social media to sell this…and we have adapted to that and we have investigations targeting people using social media to sell the drugs.”
Quontez Kuvinka was involved in a deadly carjacking and crash in 2017 and was given a break until he was found on social media holding and shooting guns—violating his deal. He was then sentenced to prison for the crime.
Thursday’s Supreme Court opinion reinstated the conviction of a girl who stole a car and drove recklessly in 2020 in Portales. In that case, Facebook messages showed her and her boyfriend discussing her driving drunk and crashing the car. However, at the time an appellate court said the state couldn’t prove the authenticity of the messages, and threw out the conviction.
The use of social media evidence has become so great locally, that APD is looking to expand its analyst division to help sift through all the social media data.