Trayvon Martin’s parents are wildly screaming that the privacy rights of their 17 year old “kid” are being invaded by George Zimmerman’s lawyers acquiring Trayvon’s Facebook, Twitter and school records. First of all, what you post on Facebook or Twitter in public has little privacy value. So, be careful what you say on public message boards. Next, school records are private records, but are a gold mine source for criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors researching criminal defendants and criminal witnesses. Defense lawyers in Texas can easily subpoena school records and turn them over to the Court. So can prosecutors, who usually look through a defendant’s school records for evidence of “bad acts” to use against them in punishment hearings.
The only records which normally have an added level of privacy protection in Texas law are CPS (Department of Family and Protective Services Records) records detailing child abuse or neglect investigations, and health records which generally require a HIPPA-compliant subpoena (although our Court of Criminal Appeals has held a general subpoena not to be fatal), and court documents which placed under “seal” by a court (i.e. excluded from public portion of a file) such as family social studies in divorce cases.
As most divorced persons can tell you, once you get into court, what you thought is your “right of privacy” is very limited. In criminal law, this is because both sides have the power of subpoena, i.e., the power to get an order of the court requiring a person with testimony or evidence to come to court to produce such testimony or evidence. If you have a car accident and are taken to the hospital, the courts can force your hospital records to be brought to court for use in favor of or against you if they are admissible under the rules of evidence. So why are Trayvon’s Facebook, Twitter, and school records so important in this case? Why are George’s medical records so important to the prosecution? Read Part two for the answer.
If you or someone you know is being investigated or prosecuted for a crime, call Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist Micah Belden at 903-744-4252.