This Blog has covered the use of Facebook in the criminal justice system on several occasions and has also questioned why the probation service doesn’t make more use of social media. So this week’s Finally Friday takes a light-hearted look at what happens when you combine the two worlds of Facebook and probation.
As any probation officer running an alcohol-related offending group will tell you: alcohol use impairs your cognitive faculties.
Drunk on Facebook – About 437,000,000 results
Take the man in Louisville, Kentucky convicted for possession of methamphetamine and Ecstasy. Under the terms of his probation, he was prohibited from either drinking alcohol or being in any establishment serving alcoholic beverages. In the spirit of optimistic self-rehabilitation, he friended his probation officer on Facebook. A couple of weeks later he posted a series of pictures of himself drinking to accompany the update:
“anyone wanna go get smashed tonight one last time before the end of the Earth?”
He duly received a two-year prison sentence for violating his probation.
Interestingly, this sort of case is becoming so common that there is a whole body of case law building up around it in the USA.
A Maryland man was convicted of “homicide by vehicle” while driving under the influence. On release from his two-year prison sentence, he was supervised on a probation order which again prohibited him from consuming any alcohol. “A concerned citizen” contacted the State’s Attorney’s Office to report that he had violated his probation order, citing as evidence Facebook photos.
There were two photos in question, taken by the probationer’s sister and posted on her Facebook page, showing him in a motel room. The first photo shows him standing next to a table on which there was a nearly full bottle of rum, the second depicts a similar scene – only with the rum bottle empty.
The sister, after what we can only imagine were some interesting sibling conversations, duly testified in court that she alone had been drinking, not him. His attorney made the masterful intervention:
“there is no evidence of any alcohol consumption by my client… In the photo you can clearly see that his hand is in the potato chip bag and not on the bottle”.
The defence rests, Your Honour. Further details here.
This sparked a lively Twitter debate with legal eagles @Defencegirl, @LifeinCustody, @nedbar1 and @btemplaw who agreed that Facebook evidence features in an increasing number of British cases. @Defencegirl’s story about the man who threatened on Facebook to burn his other half’s house down and then proceeded to do so was particularly amusing for the reason that he decided to commit arson when he was in the house on his own and subsequently had to leap from the burning building.
It appears that tweeters are keen not to be left out. This US tweeter has an entrepreneurial spirit and has spotted a gap in the market for drug users on probation. He also figures that advertising on Twitter is the cheapest and best way to drum up business: