Social Media Companies May No Longer Refuse to Turn Over Relevant Information to Those Facing Criminal Charges
In August 2020, the California Supreme Court sent a case for attempted murder back to the trial court to provide the accused a new trial. The high court did so because they did not believe that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter should always be able to refuse to comply with subpoenas in criminal cases.
The case concerns a 2016 shooting in San Diego County. San Diego prosecutors charged Lance Touchstone with Attempted Murder [PC 664] of his sister’s boyfriend.
The defense argued that their client was being denied their right to a fair trial because Facebook refused to comply with subpoenas requesting the victim’s records which may contain potentially exculpatory evidence that would substantiate that their client’s actions were in self-defense.
Facebook, as it has in a high number of other cases, maintained that the Stored Communications Act bars it from having to disclose the private content of its users’ accounts in response to a criminal subpoena. Facebook claims it is protected under the 1986 law as an entity providing “computer processing services.”
For many years persons accused of crimes were likely convicted of crimes because relevant evidence that could have led to their exoneration was withheld from them. This was because social media giants like Facebook and Twitter would refuse to comply with lawful subpoenas issued by criminal defense law firms like Wallin and Klarich. More often than not they would ignore subpoenas from criminal defense lawyers fighting hard for their clients. The courts would offer no help to those persons facing many years in prison if they were convicted of these crimes.
Recently it has come into question whether social media companies are actually protected due to their business models. Facebook’s protection under the SCA has been called into question because its users are authorized to access communications for purposes other than storage or computer processing. The California Supreme Court in the Touchstone case pointed out Facebook’s policy on mining, analyzing and sharing information.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s opinion in this case, which resulted in the case being remanded back to the trial court serves as a huge blow to big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. It allows criminal defense attorneys like Wallin & Klarich to subpoena social media giants to produce relevant evidence needed to defend their client’s rights in criminal cases. These companies can no longer come to court to successfully argue that they cannot legally release this potentially relevant evidence. Our law firm plans to fight in every way we can to obtain all evidence, from whatever source to help exonerate our clients from conviction of serious criminal charges.
Contact a Wallin & Klarich Criminal Defense Attorney Today!
Your right to a fair and speedy trial is important. Wallin & Klarich’s experienced criminal defense attorneys will do everything they can to fight for you in your time of legal need. With over 40 years of experience defending southern californians who have been accused of committing a crime. Regardless of whether our clients faces criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege or wants to clean up their criminal record, we will always be there to help them.
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