In Facebook v. Superior Court of San Francisco, No. A144315 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 8, 2015), a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, held that the Stored Communications Act (SCA) prevented criminal defendants from obtaining social media records via a subpoena duces tecum served on social media websites Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In the lower court, the defendants had requested records belonging to the victim as well as a prosecution witness, which the defendants argued were essential to "locat[ing] exculpatory evidence." The criminal defendants did not dispute that the materials sought were covered by the SCA, but argued that the SCA violated their due process rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The defendants also noted that the SCA allowed the prosecution to collect some of the same material by search warrant.
The court of appeal rejected these constitutional arguments, holding that the defendants had not met the "heavy burden" of demonstrating that the SCA violated due process. The court of appeal, however, made it clear that its holding was limited to documents sought pre-trial, and defendants would not be prevented from trying to compel production of the social media records during trial.