Danville, VA -- Social media is quickly becoming a great tool for law enforcement. Just last week, an Ohio rape trial made national headlines when two high school football players were convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. All the evidence came from pictures, videos, and posts online.
Danville Police say they try to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to social media. So, sometimes those pictures and videos on social media can turn into evidence in a courtroom.
"Anytime any information is put out there, obviously we are looking for it," said Cpt. Dennis Haley, Danville Police Department.
Haley says he's used social media during his investigations. In fact, one YouTube video helped police build a case for a search warrant that later led to several charges.
"We were able to use that in their bond hearings to help protect the community because obviously the actions they were portraying and what they were glorifying, the court apparently felt that they would put the public at risk," said Haley.
Police have used social media in other criminal cases too. Haley says they often demonstrate behavior outside a courtroom.
"It gives the court, it gives the judge, the jury an opportunity to actually see them the way they are behaving, the way they are portraying, it shows them," said Haley.
But not only in court. Your actions online can harm you in the real world too.
"It definitely can still hurt you, it doesn't have to be criminal activity," said Angie McAdams, director of career pathways and placement at Danville Community College.
McAdams advises students to only post what you want an employer, a family member, and the world to see.
"That's permanent. It never really goes away. You can delete it, but there is still evidence somewhere," said McAdams.
Danville Police also advise that you are careful to not become a victim based on what you post online. For example, don't write that you are going to dinner on your Facebook because that can signal that no one is home.