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Divorce Briefs: Tame Your Social Media Use and The Worst States for Divorce

January 27, 2015, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

facebook-divorces-united-kingdom-2012.jpgThere was an interesting article in Forbes the other day about the increasing importance social media posts play in litigation.

The article pointed to a 2009 case, People v. Franco, in which a jury convicted Franco of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Threat on Facebook Has Deadly Consequences

In this case, Franco posted on her Facebook page: "If you find me on the freeway and you can keep up I have a really bad habit of racing random people."

The next day, Franco was traveling 75 miles an hour on a freeway when Henry Chavez started to tailgate her. Whenever she changed lanes, he followed her.

Franco testified that she noticed that her speed was increasing so she tapped on her brakes to slow down, ostensibly to avoid getting a ticket. Not expecting her to brake, Chavez veered to avoid a collision with Franco, lost control of his vehicle and died.

This case is a reminder to everyone that what you say on social media, and especially Facebook, can and will be used against you in court.

In fact, what you post on social media can replace the official story you tell a judge in court.

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Is Privacy Possible in a Santa Rosa Divorce?

September 10, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Identity_theft-1[1].jpgIncidents of identity theft are exploding around the country. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of incidents soared by 50 percent.

There are now 130 million computer programs that can capture credit card numbers and those numbers are now worth between $10 and hundreds of dollars for a no-limit American Express card.

What does this have to do with your divorce?

Divorce records, which can contain sensitive information, are matters of public record. That means that anyone - including your neighbor or employer - can poke through the pages of your divorce proceedings and learn more about you than you might want them to know, such as:

  • the value of your marital property;
  • your debts;
  • your income; and
  • your retirement benefits, pensions, savings, and investments
You Can Ask the Court to Seal Your Records

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Is Facebook Safe? It might Not Be for Your Teen

February 12, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

internetSafety3_frame.jpgIn 2008, the Illinois legislature enacted a law authored by state Sen. John Waterman barring most registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites. The law was challenged and upheld by a district court in June 2012.

Displeased with that court's decision, the ACLU of Indiana filed an appeal. The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago in late January overturned the lower court's decision and ruled that the Indiana law was unconstitutional.

Sen. Waterman has stated he will pursue new measures to protect children online from the dangers of sexual predators.

Sex Offenders Fight Back

Sex offenders have organized legal battles, fighting for their right to be online. They were successful in February 2012 when a federal judge in Louisiana struck down a state law barring sex offenders from using Facebook and other social media on First Amendment grounds.

Efforts to restrict sex offenders across the U.S. seem to reach the same obstacle.

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Facebook Evidence in A Santa Rosa Divorce: Five Tips for Protecting Yourself

November 6, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

social media.jpgA 2010 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) concluded that 81 percent of divorce attorneys had seen an increase in the use of social media as evidence -- with Facebook topping the charts at 66 percent. In the more than two years since the disquieting AAML survey, Facebook has grown to 955 million monthly active users. Chances are your spouse and the friends and family of your spouse use Facebook.

I have made it no secret, Facebook is the first place I go when I get a family law case. I have been able to get very favorable results in court based on the opposing party's Facebook posts. However, I have also had clients hurt by their posts. identifies the following five tips for Facebook use during your divorce.

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US Supreme Court Holds That Law Enforcement Need A Warrant Before GPS Tracking Can Be Used

January 24, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Electronic-Discovery-and-the-Fourth-Amendment.jpgIn US vs. Jones, the US Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the attachment of a Global Positioning-System (GPS) tracking device to an individual's vehicle, and subsequent use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements on public streets, constitutes a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment provides in relevant part that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that police cannot attach a GPS device to a criminal suspect's car to track their movements without first obtaining a search warrant.

While the Government contended that no "search" occurred, the Court thought differently. It is beyond dispute that a vehicle is an "effect" as that term is used in the Amendment. United States v. Chadwick, 433 U. S. 1, 12 (1977). Based on this, the Court reasoned that the Government's installation of a GPS device on a target's vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constitutes a "search."

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said that the government's installation of a GPS device, and its use to monitor a vehicle's movements, constitutes a search, meaning that a warrant is required.

"By attaching the device to the Jeep" that Jones was using, "officers encroached on a protected area," Scalia wrote.

This is probably not the end of these types of cases making their way to the US Supreme Court because the court did not rule on whether the exact search was reasonable, which means even if the Fourth Amendment applies in cases like this, it's possible that the use of GPS devices may be considered acceptable in some circumstances.

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Contents of MySpace Page Are Sufficient To Establish Its Authenticity

December 20, 2011, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

online-social-networking-2-320x200.jpgGenerally in court, documentary evidence such as records, letters, bills, contracts, and similar writings have to be authenticated or identified before being admitted in evidence as genuine.

In today's society, information obtained on social networking websites is being used in court as evidence against the party who made the post.

This seemed to have begged the question, how do you properly authenticate a social networking post? That question has been answered in People vs. Valdez.

In Valdez, supra, a jury convicted Vincent Julian Valdez, Jr., of two counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a firearm, and two counts of street terrorism (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (a)), arising from two separate drive-by shootings. Valdez asserts challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction of street terrorism by arguing that the trial court erroneously admitted pages from his MySpace social networking site that included his gang moniker ("Yums"), a photograph of him making a gang hand signal, and written notations including "T.L.F.," "YUM $ YUM," "T.L.F.'s '63 Impala," "T.L.F., The Most Wanted Krew by the Cops and Ladiez," and "Yums. You Don't Wanna F wit[h] this Guy."

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Social Networking Sites Such as Facebook and MySpace Can Be Your Ex Partner's Worst Nightmare

November 25, 2010, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Being to open on social networks has led to a surplus of evidence in divorce cases.  Studies have shown throughout the United States that a growing number of family law attorneys have used or faced evidence pulled from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites, including YouTube and LinkedIn, over the last five years.  About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

I litigated a child custody case last year where I was able to use a father's adult advertisement on MySpace to obtain a custody order that was very favorable to my client.

So the next time you post something on a social network site, you should ask yourself at least one question, whose watching?