In United States v. Gatson, a federal district court in New Jersey has ruled that the police were permitted to create a fake Instagram account and then become “Instagram friends” with a suspect they were investigating.
The court further ruled that photos and information obtained through the undercover Instagram account could then be admitted as evidence against the person at trial.
In this case, the defendant was being investigated for a string of burglaries committed against various affluent individuals, including several celebrities. The investigation involved more than 40 residential burglaries that occurred in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Georgia.
Gatson posted pictures to his Instagram account of items he had stolen, making them visible to his Instagram friends, including the police. His defense attorney filed a motion to suppress these pictures as a result of the police obtaining them without a search warrant and under false pretenses. The court held that consensual sharing of this type of information does not require a search warrant, even if the accepted “friend” is a fake account created by the police.
As a result, the District Court denied Gatson’s motion to suppress this evidence at trial.
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