Authenticating Social Media Evidence

One of my all-time favorite emails was received from a prosecutor who was handling a drug trafficking case. The email included a picture, plucked from what purported to be the defendant’s Facebook page, showing the defendant sitting on a pile of cash (later determined to be $1.6 million!), holding an AK-47. Jeff has written (here) about authenticating photographs from social media sites. But what of the other evidence that is mined from social media—how is that authenticated? A recent Second Circuit case adheres to the line that the relevant standard isn’t particularly high but finds that the prosecution didn’t meet it in this case.

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Authentication and GPS Tracking

I’ve had more and more questions about introducing GPS tracking data in criminal trials. When I think about digital evidence, I think about authentication as the first hurdle. This post summarizes the law regarding the authentication of GPS data. GPS data may come into criminal cases in several ways: because law enforcement placed a tracking … Read more

Authenticating Photographs Taken from Social Media Sites

Suppose that the defendant is charged with a gang-related murder. The State seeks to establish that the defendant is a gang member by introducing a photograph that a detective found on the defendant’s Facebook page. The photograph shows the defendant flashing gang signs. The defendant argues that the picture can’t be authenticated, because digital photographs … Read more


State v. Wilkerson and the Authentication of Electronic Evidence

I recently heard a police detective say that the internet was the worst thing that ever happened to law enforcement.  He explained that before advent of the internet, criminals had to leave their homes to hook up with other criminals. That movement could easily be tracked by the police. These days conspiracies can be hatched … Read more

Authentication and Hearsay Issues with Phone Records

Suppose that the state wants to introduce the defendant’s phone records, in order to show that he called the victim in violation of a DVPO. The state subpoenas the records, and the phone company provides them, along with an affidavit from an appropriate employee stating that they are business records. Armed with the records and … Read more

Electronic Evidence

Regular readers know that I have a particular interest in the intersection of new technologies and criminal law. But I am not the only person at the School of Government interested in this topic. My colleague Cheryl Howell recently taught a session on electronic evidence — essentially, how the rules of evidence apply to things … Read more