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April 22, 2013

Out To Get Arrested? Try Sharing Too Much Online

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While it may seem like some people out there share too much--granted, there's always value in finding a good restaurant, so telling people what you had for lunch yesterday could be worthwhile, but does anyone want to know what the cat had for lunch yesterday? There are indeed some people who share too much. This may sound like a value judgment, but for some people, what they share online is actually being used against them in criminal proceedings.

One such event that took place recently featured a man named Richard Godbehere, who posted a video clip running five minutes and 11 seconds, featuring himself driving under the title "Let's Go Driving, Drinking!" on LiveLeak. In said video, Godbehere opens a bottle of Beck's, with a bottle opener, and proceeds to drink while driving. Godbehere reportedly told CNN, in the aftermath, that "there was no beer in that bottle," but the police didn't seem to accept that suggestion, instead arresting Godbehere on charges of driving without a license and consuming alcohol while so doing. Godbehere will take his case to court in June, reports indicate.

Just last month, another case wrapped up in Steubenville, Ohio, following the role of video and social media in the case of a 16 year old girl who was raped by two football players while drunk. The two players in question were found guilty last month, and the cell phone video and photos played a major role in that particular arrest and subsequent conviction. The list of arrests connected to social media goes on from there, with underage drunk drivers and more hitting social media with pictures, videos, and text-based confessions.

However, getting a conviction from this sort of thing is difficult due to the nature of the evidence. In Richard Godbehere's case, for example, proving that he was actually drunk, as opposed to faking drunk for parody purposes--indeed, proving there was beer in that bottle at all--would be extraordinarily difficult.

It only gets worse when the issue of ownership is involved; take Jennifer Pawluck of Montreal, who took a picture of graffiti she saw one day involving an identifiable Montreal police officer with a bullet hole in his head. Pawluck posted the photo she took to Instagram, and found herself accused of harassment and intimidation. She has yet to be formally charged, but is set to appear in court May 24. Montreal police are keeping comparatively quiet about the case, but did note that there was more to the arrest than just the photo.

The key issue here, of course, is about what is shared online. While it's not always easy, or even possible, to build a criminal case based on what hits Facebook (News - Alert) or Instagram or the like, there's often enough to promote suspicion. With some Facebook posts already seen to cost people current jobs or prevent people from finding new jobs, it's clear that the lectures about certain things not being worth posting on Facebook are getting a new set of teeth. While the ethics, morals and legal principles behind social media posting affecting anything in the real world are readily debatable, the point is that they already are having an impact, and should be approached accordingly.

Sharing too much information online can lead to a variety of problems down the line. A note of judiciousness, therefore, should accompany every posting that goes up, as it comes back to haunt the poster in the not too distant future.

Edited by Ashley Caputo
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