Understanding the impact of social media on Texas drunk driving cases

After DUI arrests, authorities could use people’s social media posts as evidence that they were intoxicated when they were stopped.

Law enforcement officers throughout the state of Texas regularly stop drivers on suspicion of drunk driving. Often, such stops lead to arrests and DUI charges for motorists. The Texas Department of Public Safety reports that, in 2011 alone, more than 87,000 people were arrested and charged with alcohol-related offenses. Sometimes, those who have been charged with DUI may have previously posted about their activities, or feel the need to share their experiences after their arrests, on social media. Doing so, however, may have an adverse effect on their case.

Timelines and proof

Posts on social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, often include timestamps and locations. As such, law enforcement may use a person's posts to ascertain a timeline of his or her activities prior to his or her arrest. These posts may also be used as evidence that a person did in fact consume alcohol before his or her arrest.

For example, a person posts to Facebook upon arriving at a bar. While out, several photos are posted of him or her holding and drinking alcoholic beverages. Then, the person is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after leaving the bar. The authorities could then potentially use these posts as evidence or to estimate how long a person was drinking.

Private settings do not assure privacy

It is common for people to believe they are safe because they have set their profile settings to private. Sometimes, a person's friends and acquaintances may not have done the same. Therefore, law enforcement officers may be able to access and view their posts, including those that the accused has been tagged in. Furthermore, CNN reports that authorities may go so far as creating fake online profiles. They may then befriend those under investigation in order to gain access to their private information.

Following an arrest for drunk driving, people may go into their social media accounts and delete posts they think could be incriminating. While this may be helpful in some cases, it is important to understand that deleted posts may still be accessible to law enforcement. The authorities may be able to obtain such information through warrants and subpoenas for use as evidence at trial.

Establishing a defense

A DUI charge is considered a serious offense in the state of Texas, and may carry potentially serious consequences. As such, it may be important for those facing such charges to put themselves in a position to defend against the charges they are facing. Therefore, they may find it of benefit to work with an attorney. A legal representative may help them understand their rights and options, as well as offer guidance regarding how to proceed until their cases are resolved.