More and more often, people communicate online. They use text-based programs, one of the most popular of which is Facebook Messenger. This allows Facebook users to send private messages back and forth between each other, and no one else can read them – which is much different than public posts or comments on someone’s wall.
But just how private are these messages? Say that the police are searching for evidence and they want to read someone’s Facebook messages. Can they do so?
They likely need to get a warrant
Generally speaking, police officers would need to get a warrant. In some cases, they can get a warrant to unlock a person’s phone. In other cases, they have approached Facebook directly and served a warrant on the company itself. The company will then turn over the contents of the Facebook messages to the proper authorities – with or without that person’s phone.
This does not mean that you have to show the police what is on your phone or tell them about the contents of the message just because they’ve asked. You do have a right to privacy. Police officers are not always granted a warrant, even when they seek one. It’s certainly not a given.
But it’s also important to know that, should they get that warrant, those private messages may be used as evidence in a criminal case. That could have a major impact on the outcome, so it’s important to ensure that the police have followed all of the proper procedures. If you’re facing charges, you also need to know about your criminal defense options. A criminal lawyer can help discuss your options.