Milwaukee, WI- Facebook is a great way for people to share things with their friends and family. It is also a great forum for police and attorneys to gather information about people and their activities. In the case of a Milwaukee man and Facebook photo of him flushed with cash helped land him in legal hot water for being a dead beat dad.
Christopher Robinson, 23, has never made a child support payment for his 3 year-old child, even though it’s only $150 a month. Now, after posting the picture of himself with a bottle of liquor and a pile of $20 bills, Robinson is facing three felony charges of refusing to pay child support, which if convicted could land him in prison for 11 years.
“What we do in these types of cases is we try to find out from other family members whether there is other information we may not be able to know about,” Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern told ABCNews.com.
“[Facebook] is an investigative tool,” Lovern said. “It can be effective in assisting in the investigation and prosecution of certain criminal targets.”
Police are unclear if the money Robinson is posing with is his own or happens to belong to someone else, but misrepresenting your income in child support cases has serious ramifications. And the photo he posted gave prosecutors enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant and petition Facebook for more information.
Lovern said of Facebook, “It is an investigative tool. It can be effective in assisting in the investigation and prosecution of certain criminal targets,” according to ABC News.
Facebook complies with law enforcement requests and search warrants under the dictates of the law. A Facebook representative told Yahoo News, “Facebook devotes significant resources to evaluating requests for user information, and adheres to the letter of these laws when responding to requests for information.”
And Facebook isn’t just a way for police to catch dead beat dads or detect other criminal activity, divorce attorneys too have turned to Facebook for valuable information in divorce cases. A 2009 study showed that Facebook was factor in at least one in five U.S. divorce cases, however that trend may change since U.K. divorce attorneys cited Facebook in one out of three cases.
The social media site can not only make it easier for a spouse to flirt or cheat, but in can also provide information that can prove valuable when a couple is going through a contentious divorce and attorneys don’t need search warrant to gather this information, they simply have to view a person’s profile.
Few people think before they look for a post damaging things on Facebook, things posted in the forum become a matter of public record and even something a person thinks is insignificant can be used in an attorney’s arsenal.
A status update, a picture, a comment or updating relationship status can be used as evidence in a divorce case and can impact a child custody agreement, spousal support or other divorce-related issues.