Social Media and DUI Arrests | Charlotte DWI Attorney

Social Media and DUI Charges

These days, it seems that everyone wants to share everything about their lives with their friends on social media sites. Before the days of Facebook and Twitter, people would have to call friends individually or wait until they saw them to “catch up” on what they had done the night or weekend before. Now, events can be shared simultaneously with ALL of your friends at the same time. People routinely post pictures, videos, and comments on social media sites documenting where they are, what they are doing, even what they are about to eat at dinner. My wife is a prolific Facebook poster. I always wonder who really cares what we are doing at any given time. But, to my amazement, almost anything posted will quickly receive “likes” or comments from her database of “friends” and “contacts.” Shows what the old man does not appreciate about this virtual sharing of one’s life experiences.

With the good can also come the bad side of being so “open” and documenting your life on the web. First, anything and everything posted is “out there” forever. It cannot be “taken back” or deleted later. The internet is overloaded with obvious poor choices and decisions that people seemingly do not hesitate to share with the world. Social media and divorce law have formed an unnatural relationship, and family lawyers routinely “catch” and preserve this new evidence of poor choices. It is the same with prosecutors. Social media and DUI charges present new ways to convict persons using evidence the State might never know of otherwise. It still intrigues me how unrestrained people are in their postings. Of course, in court, there will be potential authentication and other evidentiary issues, but I have little doubt such evidence will ultimately be admitted. And, police will not be able to deceptively “friend” a criminal defendant in order to obtain such evidence. However, it is already becoming a concern for DWI lawyers who practice in this area.

Recent Case Where Social Media Played a Role in Sentencing

In a recent case, I was confronted with previously unknown social media postings by my client. This individual had struck several cars on the highway while intoxicated. While no one was seriously injured (thank goodness), the drivers who were involved showed up in court at his sentencing hearing to share their experiences and to ask the court for a harsh sentence. One of the drivers who was involved¬†presented Facebook postings showing my client obviously intoxicated again just a few days later after the accident. I am not sure how these images were secured, but an individual in this role can simply “friend request” and get access to everything in a client’s profile and history. The judge in my case was not amused by the social media postings and reviewed the printed photographs for a significant period of time. He then looked at my client and was about to sentence him. Fearing the backlash, I asked for a continuance to review this newly presented “evidence” so that emotions could cool. The judge was kind enough to grant my request, and we were able to plead at a later date. Nevertheless, this experience is becoming more common as social media and DUI issues are similarly going the way of other legal proceedings. Not only in divorce cases, but also in personal injury and even workers’ compensation cases. The pictures and videos posted as well as written messages can come back to haunt you. A recent felony DUI case involved a Twitter posting shortly before the serious injury accident in which the criminal defendant wrote “2drunk2care.” You can imagine the impact of such “admission” on the sentencing phase in that matter.

Social media gives a voice to anyone and everyone. It effectively allows and even encourages people to “shout it from the rooftops.” Of course, many folks would never share in person what they seem to be willing to type in private. A little discretion is always in order and prudent. But when it comes to posting bad behavior or other incriminating revelations, the same common sense rule applies to social media and life. You have the right to remain silent. Please exercise that all important right. Both you and your DWI lawyer will be grateful later. Just remember “how do fish get caught?” By “opening their mouths.”