Can Internet Searches About Murder Get You Arrested?

When I was in college, my roommate and I invented a game called "How Can We Kill Lila?" about our third roommate. We both read a lot of true crime and thought it was funny to come up with ways we could possibly kill her and get away with it. We had nothing against Lila. (Other than that her slobby boyfriend was always over.) We didn't want to kill her. We just thought it was fun to try and come up with the "perfect crime."

I can't blame Lila for finally moving out. But looking back I realize that, today, we'd probably get arrested. And, today, we'd probably have done our game online, through emails, chat -- maybe even public tweets! In other words, everything that would be needed to put me away for conspiracy to kill ... even though none of it was real or intended! GAH!!


My sense of humor hasn't exactly become more mature. The Jodi Arias case was the perfect opportunity to joke around with one of my exes recently. "Hey, can't blame that girl," I teased him via IM. "You could have ended up like Travis!"

"Nah," he responded. "You're too small. You couldn't hurt anyone."

"You have to sleep sometime!" I joked back.

And then it dawned on me. What if this guy ended up dead somewhere? I had just placed myself at the top of the suspect list. Of course, it would take more than a few IMs to get me convicted (hopefully!). It would take DNA, a weapon, etc. But my point is this: Most all of us are creating an electronic imprint all of the time.

We may think our emails and IMs are private, but they are not if authorities get a warrant to seize our computers. Not to mention all of the social networks we now freely give permission to scour our email address books. We can only hope they're not also scouring for key words to hand over to advertisers -- and possibly the feds!

Think it can't happen? Look at Gilberto Valle, otherwise known as the "Cannibal Cop." He's standing trial for conspiracy to kidnap dozens of women -- all because of Internet chats with a merry band of pervs who like to talk about cooking and eating women. Although he met up with at least one of the women he supposedly planned to cook, and he illegally accessed a law enforcement database to compile a dossier of women he supposedly wanted to broil alive, he never did any of it.

In fact, he told one of his fellow perverts, "No matter what I ask, it’s make-believe ... But, it’s fun to chat and push the envelope." (Not that Valle shouldn't be punished, but that's another post.)

Look at all the people on Facebook who have had their lives and careers ruined over an imprudent post. Look at all of the people whose Internet searches have been used against them in court. That's happened with Valle: He did a search on the "best rope" to tie people up with. Was that because he planned to do it, or was his knowledge of good rope something he just wanted to mention to impress his twisted pals?

Miranda Law states, "Anything you say can and will be used against you." That should probably be extended to: "Anything you once wrote online."

Have you ever said anything online that you regretted?

Image via MikeTrabo/Flickr

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