Article: Lawbreakers Misuse Even the Newest Tech to Their Disadvantage

No matter how fast technology advances, the resourcefulness of certain people in using it to their disadvantage somehow manages to keep pace. By now, you’ve no doubt heard or read of these lawbreakers who greatly helped law enforcement by posting Facebook selfies showing themselves engaged in clearly criminal wrongdoing.

One prime example was the Tennessee man a few years ago who, despite two prior felony firearms offenses, decided it would be a good idea to post to his Facebook page a self-taken photo of himself glowering into the camera while holding a .45-caliber weapon. (At the time of the photo, he was still on probation for the more recent of the two prior handgun convictions.)

That miscalculation earned him a more than 15-year prison sentence for his latest, self-documented misconduct, a felony firearm possession charge. Think of that. 15 YEARS. Because he posted a picture. And there are plenty of other instances of those who felt compelled to post on Facebook or other social media site incriminating photos of themselves preparing for crimes they would shortly commit or displaying contraband, much to the later delight of law enforcement investigators.

Sometimes, especially in the case of those who steal smart phones or tablets which they then use to display their ill-gotten gains, the crime victims themselves are able to locate the thieves online, thus sparing official investigators the need to do much investigating.

Launched by Twitter in 2015, Periscope allows users to make live videocasts showing themselves in action, and permits viewers to post comments or heart emojis to show approval, which flutter up the screen (the more received, the higher they climb).

You could probably think of a large number of ways to use a new instant video-streaming app like this — but would one of them be using it to document your progress as you drive drunk through your town? In the early months following the app’s introduction, that’s been precisely how a 33-year-old Long Island man and a 23-year-old Florida woman opted to employ Periscope.

In both cases, the drivers narrated alcohol-fueled late night motor jaunts on Periscope, but rather than admiring comments, mostly attracted warnings to get off the road; some commenters warned the inebriated driver they planned to notify the police, and in each case at least several did. Besides providing evidence of erratic driving, the streaming Periscope feed helped police who tuned in track where each inebriate’s vehicle was headed.

Both drivers were pulled over by police for field sobriety tests, which, unsurprisingly, the drivers clearly failed. Each driver was soon booked on DUI charges. The Florida woman escaped with a six-month license suspension, a year’s probation, plus community service and other penalties (the video of her giving a slurred, profanity-laced narration of her drive – including running red lights and flattening two tires — remains available to the world on YouTube). Charges for the Long Island driver are still awaiting disposition.

Did you like this article? Please sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter, where you can catch up with highlights from my legal blogs and my legal marketing podcast.

indicates required