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July 18, 2011

Perhaps the new Google+ service should promise to keep probation officers out

The silly (tech-savvy?) title of this post is prompted in part by the new Google+ service seeking to complete with Facebook, along with this lengthy effective piece from the Louisville Courier-Journal which is headlined "Busted by Facebook: Some on probation learn the hard way that online posts can backfire." Here are excerpts from the piece:

If you don't want to do the time, stay offline. Or at the very least, don't “friend” your probation officer.

Convicted of possessing methamphetamine and Ecstasy, Scott W. Roby learned that the hard way. The Louisville man had his probation revoked this month — and was sentenced to two years in prison — in part for violating conditions that required him to stay alcohol-free and out of bars and liquor stores.

Roby had invited his probation officer to be his friend on Facebook, then Roby posted pictures of himself drinking — including one in which he was holding a beer while posed next to “Buddy Bat,” the mascot for the Louisville Bats, said prosecutor Dinah Koehler. In another Facebook post, according to court records, Roby asked: “Anyone wanna go get smashed tonight one last time before the end of the Earth?”

Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the Kentucky Department of Corrections say that with increasing regularity, offenders on probation are losing their freedom or incurring other sanctions after posting pictures online of themselves clubbing, using “beer bongs,” posing with firearms or bragging about out-of-town trips they've made without their probation officer's permission....

Kentucky is not the only place where offenders are getting kicked off probation for implicating themselves online.

In Connecticut, according to press accounts, a woman convicted of killing a teenager while driving drunk had three years added to her sentence in 2009, in part because she was shown posing with alcohol in virtually every picture on her Facebook page — “worshipping at the altar of alcohol, debauchery and lewd behavior,” a prosecutor said.

The ABA Journal recently reported that the first thing some criminal-defense lawyers tell clients now is to shut down their Facebook accounts....

Civil libertarians seem to have no problem with corrections officials monitoring social- media sites. “To the extent individuals voluntarily post information on social-networking sites that are accessible to others, the use of that information to establish a violation of probation or parole is likely to withstand any claims of invasion of privacy by the poster,” Bill Sharp, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in an email.

He added, however, that courts must be careful to verify the defendant really was the poster. He cited a recent decision in which the Maryland Supreme Court held that a judge improperly admitted information from a social-networking site where the only evidence that the page belonged to a witness was that it contained his birth date and photograph.

July 18, 2011 at 01:03 PM | Permalink

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Comments

One thing the government cannot cure is having an IQ of 10.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 3:50:38 PM

which is probalby a good thing bill since so many of them become politicians or buracrats!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 18, 2011 5:02:13 PM

Finally, a kernel of practical wisdom from an ACLU representative.

Posted by: mjs | Jul 18, 2011 5:15:32 PM

All one million people on probation should find an empty beer can and fill it with water and fill a pipe with tobacco, film themselves drinking and smoking, and upload it at 12:30.

Posted by: George | Jul 18, 2011 5:37:44 PM

Who friend requests their probation officer?! Bill is correct on this one.

Posted by: DEJ | Jul 18, 2011 9:39:30 PM

There are lot's of fake accounts on social media sites posting peoples pictures and infos.

Posted by: Robert | Jul 19, 2011 9:48:35 PM

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