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U.S. Settles Fake Facebook Profile Case

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin criminal defense attorney, Wisconsin defense lawyer, federal crimesThe U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently settled a lawsuit pending against it, Arquiett v. U.S., paying $134,000 to a woman whose photographs the DEA had used to create a fake Facebook profile to carry out drug stings. The DEA acquired the photographs off the woman's cell phone after she was arrested on drug charges. The settlement did not require the government to admit to any wrongdoing, and it prevents the case from going to trial. However, it may still provide an important guidepost for how much respect the federal government should have for people's privacy when it is enforcing the laws, since the Justice Department has now said that it is “mak[ing] clear the necessity of protecting the privacy and safety of third parties in every aspect of our criminal investigations.”

Arquiett v. U.S.

The case arose initially after Arquiett was arrested for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. During the arrest the DEA searched her phone and copied numerous pictures off of it, including one on Arquiett in her underwear and another of Arquiett with her son and niece, both minors. The DEA then used these photos to create a fake Facebook profile for her under an alias she had used at one point.

The goal of the fake profile was to take advantage of Arquiett's supposed connections with people committing drug crimes. In fact, the DEA even used the profile to send a friend request to a wanted fugitive. Eventually one of her friends alerted her to the existence of this fake profile, and she brought a lawsuit against the DEA.

The Outcome

The lawsuit alleged a variety of different claims. First, Arquiett argued that the use of her photos in this manner violated numerous Constitutional rights, including her rights to privacy and due process of law. She also argued that the DEA was intentionally inflicting emotional distress on her because the fake profile made it look as though she was willingly cooperating with a federal investigation. This caused her to fear that she might end up being the target of retribution.

Initially, the DEA attempted to mount a defense in the case. The argument was that during her arrest Arquiett implicitly consented to the page by giving the DEA access to her phone and consenting to the use of that information to help in ongoing investigations. However, the DEA recently opted not to pursue that defense any further, and instead simply agreed to settle the case for $134,000.

Dealing with the criminal justice system can be a stressful experience, and many defendants find it difficult to fully exercise their legal rights. If you have recently been charged with a crime and you want to ensure that your rights are protected, contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney today.

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