Use of Social Media to Publicize DWI Arrest on the Rise

Have you been on Facebook recently and seen a mugshot of a friend, family member, or acquaintance in your news feed? The mugshot is usually accompanied by a description of the cause of arrest – and increasingly targets suspected drunk drivers. The mugshot is published by your local police department.

Jurisdictions around the country have taken to social media to publicize DWI arrests in their communities. Proponents of the practice argue that publicizing arrests is a deterrent to drunk driving. Opponents of the practice believe it violates a person’s constitutional rights. Whether you agree with the practice or not, publicizing arrests is another method used by communities to confront drunk driving in their towns and cities and is part of the punishment inflicted on suspected drunk drivers.

New Mexico Program

The state of New Mexico just awarded Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) $800,000 to be paid over two years to report and monitor on social media sentences imposed on convicted drunk drivers. The program will be implemented in five counties in New Mexico with the highest drunk driving arrests and fatalities. Spearheaded by New Mexico’s governor Susanna Martinez, the idea behind monitoring and reporting DWI sentences on social media is to shed light on the lenient players – judges or prosecutors that “let off” or impose “light” DWI sentencing and repeat DWI offenders.

Other States’ Practices

Other states, particularly in the northeast, have been publishing booking photos of criminal suspects for years. In addition to releasing the photographs to local newspapers and television stations, they are also posting the photos on the police department’s social media accounts. It is common practice in the northeastern and southwestern part of the United States to post booking photos of criminal suspects. They are suspects because the booking photo is taken after arrest but before arraignment. At the point the photo is taken no formal charges have been filed against the suspect.

Controversial Practice

Supporters of releasing mugshots to traditional media and social media argue that the practice of making mugshots public, discourages intoxicated driving and brings awareness to drunk driving. Civil libertarians fear it targets suspects who have not even been charged with a crime yet. If the prosecution is unable to meet their burden of proof, the suspected drunk driver will be subject to undue ridicule and embarrassment. Still others feel that it is entirely a public relations stunt, taking the focus off of drunk driving prevention programs and placing it unfairly on judges and prosecutors. Pressuring judges to impose harsher sentences” regardless of the facts is unethical.

Every DWI Case is Unique

A good DWI defense attorney will guide you through every step of the DWI process – from arrest and arraignment to plea or trial. At The Law Office of Kimberly Griffin Tucker, P.C., we represent people accused of DWI in the Plano and surrounding areas of Denton County Texas. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DWI, contact us for a comprehensive case evaluation.