There was no Fourth Amendment violation where defendant accepted an undercover detective as a “friend” on social media and the detective discovered an incriminating video that defendant shared with his social media “friends.” Pride posted an incriminating video on a social media website that is intended for private messages to “friends.” In the video, Pride was wearing a gold chain similar to one taken in a recent robbery. An undercover detective obtained the video without a warrant by logging into an account that had been accepted by Pride as a “friend.” Police then discovered additional evidence linking Pride to the robbery. The trial court denied Pride’s motion to suppress the video. He was convicted of robbery and appealed. Held: Affirmed (but remanded for resentencing based on SB 1393). The Fourth Amendment protects the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. When a person seeks to preserve something as private, the expectation of privacy must be reasonable. The Court of Appeal reviewed several out-of-state decisions finding no reasonable expectation of privacy when a social media user shares information with “friends.” This is consistent with long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent holding that the Fourth Amendment affords no protection for voluntary communications with individuals who are secret government informers or agents. In posting the video message, Pride assumed the risk that the account for one of his “friends” could be an undercover profile for a police detective or that any other “friend” could save and share the information with government officials. As such, there was no Fourth Amendment violation. Additionally, there was no violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act because the government did not seek to compel access to Pride’s electronic device or the information on the device.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/D073360.PDF