Garton & Vogt
Understanding the impact of social media on Michigan DWI cases
People often post to social media, however, posting about a night out drinking or DWI arrest could have negative implications on their cases.
People in Clinton Township, and elsewhere, commonly share their thoughts and life experiences via social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Generally, there are minimal consequences for such posts, beyond the possible comments, likes or shares. However, for the more than 33,400 people who, according to the Michigan State Police, were arrested for drunk driving in 2014, and others, posting to social media accounts could have serious implications. In order to avoid negatively affecting their cases, it is important for people to understand how their social media accounts may be used against them.
Using posts as evidence
Prior to their arrests, people may post photos of themselves while out, and status updates about what they are doing. Depending on the content of such posts, however, they could be used as evidence at a person's criminal trial. For example, before heading home from a night out with friends, a young man posts, "Too drunk. Going home." Then, he is involved in a serious collision on the way home. At his, his post could be presented as evidence that he had been drinking, and knew that he should not get behind the wheel.
Furthermore, social media posts may include time and location stamps. As such, the authorities may use these posts to establish a timeline of people's activities before they were arrested for driving while intoxicated. This may assist them in proving to a judge or jury that a person was in fact drinking. It may also help them estimate approximately how much a person might have consumed before his or her arrest.
Privacy settings do not ensure privacy
Many people think that it does not matter what they post, or have posted, to their social media accounts because their privacy settings are set to private. While having their settings on private helps, it does not guarantee that unwanted eyes cannot view their accounts. People's friends and acquaintances may not have the same private settings, which may allow the authorities to view the things they post and tag them in. In some cases, law enforcement may go so far as creating a fake account and sending a friend request to gain access to a person's posts. The Cable News Network points out that the authorities may even obtain posts that have been deleted with a subpoena.
Potential to lose opportunities
Sometimes, people's penalties for a DWI conviction include participating in a treatment or education program. Such programs may require them to abstain from drinking. Should they choose to drink and then post about it on their social media accounts, it could impact their participation in the programs. As a result, people may have to start the program over, or they may be removed from the program all together. This could result in them receiving an alternative sentence, which may include harsher penalties.
Obtain legal representation
Driving while intoxicated is considered a serious offense in the state of Michigan. As such, the penalties people could face if convicted of these charges may have lasting implications on their personal, as well as their professional lives. Therefore, those who have been charged with alcohol-related offenses may benefit from working with an attorney. A lawyer may help them establish a strong criminal defense, as well as advise them what to do with their social media accounts until their cases are resolved.