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Texas County Will Use Twitter To Publish Drunk Drivers' Names 301

Posted by timothy
from the only-animal-that-blushes dept.
alphadogg contributes this snippet from Network World: "If you get busted for drunk driving in Montgomery County, Texas, this holiday season, your neighbors may hear about it on Twitter. That's because the local district attorney's office has decided to publish the names of those charged with driving while intoxicated between Christmas and New Year's Eve. County Vehicular Crimes Prosecutor Warren Diepraam came up with the idea as a way of discouraging residents from getting behind the wheel while drunk. 'It's not a magic bullet that's going to end DWIs, but it's something to make people think twice before they get behind the wheel of a car and drive while they're intoxicated,' he said."
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Texas County Will Use Twitter To Publish Drunk Drivers' Names

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  • Oh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb (118938) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:15AM (#30549774) Journal

    And how will they compensate anyone wrongfully put on that feed for the damage to their reputation? The Court of Public Opinion can be brutal about these things, especially when they work in HR somewhere..

    • Re:Oh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Suki I (1546431) on Friday December 25, 2009 @05:07AM (#30549946) Homepage Journal

      And how will they compensate anyone wrongfully put on that feed for the damage to their reputation? The Court of Public Opinion can be brutal about these things, especially when they work in HR somewhere..

      They typically ignore their own mistakes and make others pay for them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Well, that's the potential offenders' own fault. They really shouldn't have been suspicious in Texas.
    • Re:Oh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slarrg (931336) on Friday December 25, 2009 @05:46AM (#30550044)

      In a community of six million people, how many people do you think share the same name? I can just imagine someone in my community reading my name on this Twitter page and thinking it was me rather than one of the three other people I know about with the same name. What a mess.

      Worse, imagine getting fired because your clueless boss decided to fire people because their name was on the list and they drive a delivery truck. Even if you later prove that the person was someone sharing your name but living at a different address you're not likely to get your job back in an "at will" employment jurisdiction.

      • Re:Oh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Friday December 25, 2009 @08:50AM (#30550490) Homepage

        Most likely your boss wouldn't tell you that he fired you because your name was on the list. He'd fire you "because he doesn't need you any longer" or "because times are tough" or whatever. He might not give a reason at all in an at-will state.

        So, unless you could somehow prove that your name being on the list was the real reason (maybe he tells somebody this and it gets back to you), good luck doing anything about it.

        Ditto for people with photos of them doing stupid things on the web - you're not going to get a call from a future employer saying "well, your interviews went well but we thought that the photo of the tattoo on your butt was a bit tacky" - you'll get a call saying "thanks for interviewing but you were not selected."

      • by shentino (1139071)

        That's nothing.

        I googled myself and apparently I'm listed on America's Most Wanted.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      And how will they compensate anyone wrongfully put on that feed for the damage to their reputation? The Court of Public Opinion can be brutal about these things, especially when they work in HR somewhere..

      You ever hear of the police blotter?
      http://www.google.com/search?q=police+blotter [google.com]

      Unless you're a minor, the fact of your arrest and the charges surrounding it are part of a public record that gets published daily.

      • by Bent Mind (853241)
        I was thinking the same thing. I lived in a small town for several years. The weekly paper always published the names of people that had been charged and convicted of a crime. It didn't matter if it was a parking ticket, or breaking and entering.
      • Re:Oh. (Score:4, Informative)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday December 25, 2009 @11:05AM (#30550912) Homepage

        Unless you're a minor, the fact of your arrest and the charges surrounding it are part of a public record that gets published daily.

        In my community the police blotter isn't published daily, but the local paper does print selected excerpts.) In fact, it appears, from your own link, that any portion of the blotter being published [by the police] is scarce. If they are published, it's excerpts by the local media. (My local paper doesn't print names in their blotter excerpts, only in full stories.) Or, in other words, "public record" != "published".
         
        Another thing to consider is that a blotter is a formal legal record, a Twitter post isn't.

  • by seifried (12921) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:18AM (#30549784) Homepage
    I guess it's gone out of fashion. Sad.
    • There is supposed to be a difference between being charged and being convicted.
  • by hedgemage (934558) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:20AM (#30549790)
    I checked the article to be sure, and yep, it says that those CHARGED will have their names published on Twitter. So, even if you are found not guilty, you are going to be publicly named as a DUI offender before you even get a chance to clear your name.
    I'm not trying to excuse drunk drivers, but for some reason, its seen as ok to make those charged or convicted of DUIs out to be the scum of the earth, wantonly careening down the roadways, seeking out innocents to mow down, when in fact most people who get DUIs are just ordinary joes who made a bad decision while not in the best state of mind.
    The idea that it is somehow ok to humiliate people who are supposedly INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY seems like a prelude to a morality police state.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by enjo13 (444114)

      I agree with you that this sort of publication of charges instead of convictions sucks.

      However, your characterization of drunk drivers is just wrong. They ARE incredibly dangerous. They ARE reckless, and while they may not intentionally be seeking out people to mow down, they are showing a tremendous disregard for those same people.

      Buying Chocolate when you wanted Strawberry is a bad decision. Getting behind the wheel while drunk shows a fundamental contempt for human life.

      Attempting to trivialize it in the

      • Drunk drivers aren't drunk drivers until they're convicted. I happen to know someone personally who was charged with drunk driving for sleeping in his car in the parking lot of a bar.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          People aren't guilty of DWI until they are convicted - they're a drunk driver the moment they drive while pissed.

          Considering that this policy has the potential to harm innocent people, it should really come with a sensible plan to monitor its effectiveness, and to monitor its unintended side effects.

          If it doesn't do any good, or if it screws up too many innocent people lives; there should be figures to show it.

        • by Golddess (1361003)
          *facepalm*

          I'd love to know how a drunk driving charge can be justified for someone in a parked car.
      • Nobody is trivializing it - Innocent until proven guilty? If they're actually guilty then you can argue over the merits of this - otherwise it's plain wrong.
        Personal anecdote: A friend of mine that was pulled over, passed all the roadside sobriety tests, passed the field breathalyzer and was arrested anyways, he then passed the test at the detention center which resulted in them calling immigration on him (I'd presume because he looked middle eastern :)).

        FWIW He was not on a visa and the judge threw out
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Felix Da Rat (93827)

        However, your characterization of drunk drivers is just wrong. They ARE incredibly dangerous. They ARE reckless, and while they may not intentionally be seeking out people to mow down, they are showing a tremendous disregard for those same people.

        As is the 80 year old whose children don't have the nerve to take his license away. As is the car full of teens joking around and wrestling with each other. As is the soccer mom making 'play-date' plans for her kid on her cell phone.

        However of those, at least around D.C., only the drunk driver has a specific set of laws that may well ruin their life, even if they never cause any harm. If they do cause harm, the punishment is considerably worse than for anyone else.

        Drunk Driving laws are a prophylactic and

      • Getting behind the wheel while drunk shows a fundamental contempt for human life.

        Now, I don't drive, so take what I say with the amount of salt you deem necessary. I do get on my bicycle after partying, though.

        When I'm drunk, I'm not particularly thinking that my actions may kill someone. I also don't think I've ever harmed anyone (including myself) in traffic, and in all the dangerous situations I've been in, I think I acted prudently before ending up in that situation (I'm not saying "it's their fault!"---sometimes bad things just happen even though everybody is acting responsibly).

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perp_walk [wikipedia.org]

      I'm not really a fan of perp walks, but they've been present in US society for 100 years haven't yet pushed us into a morality police state.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TapeCutter (624760) *
      "Innocent until proven guilty" goes all the way back to the dark ages when it replaced trial by fire in England. This system is a modern day trail by fire and would offically put Texas back to the dark ages when it comes to the rights of the accused.

      However I think shaming is a reasonable but insufficient punishment for those convicted, and it is definitely an effective deterent for others. A consistent campagin by the state of Victoria, (Australia) to make drink driving socially unacceptable has dramati
      • "cut the road toll over the past 30yrs"

        Little bit of a seniors moment there, the campaing started 20yrs ago (maybe the booze buses started a bit earlier?). Anyway, just found their 20th anniversary montage [youtube.com] of some of their ads. Drunk or not they leave a powerfull impression.
      • by houghi (78078)

        So say I did this when I was 18. They put my name online for all to see. I bettered my ways and am now not drinking anything at all. Yet after 40 years when I am looking for a new job, somebody finds that I used to be a drunk driver and decides not to hire me.

        The Internet doesn't forget.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      TFA says that the county also tweets names of people charged with "soliciting a prostitute" (whatever that means exactly in Texan law). That sounds like a whole new blackmail industry hatching. At least with DUI you can objectively prove innocence.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm not trying to excuse drunk drivers, but for some reason, its seen as ok to make those charged or convicted of DUIs out to be the scum of the earth, wantonly careening down the roadways, seeking out innocents to mow down, when in fact most people who get DUIs are just ordinary joes who made a bad decision while not in the best state of mind.

      There is, in fact, no difference. The only people who will be unfairly harmed by anything like this are people who aren't DUI at all. There are people arrested falsely for DUI every day, that is the reason nothing like this should be permitted. It promotes a presumption of guilt and thus should be held to be unconstitutional.

    • when in fact most people who get DUIs are just ordinary joes who made a bad decision while not in the best state of mind

      And given the fact that this "Not in the best state of mind" is so drunk that they don't care risking their own life or passengers' or other drivers' or pedestrians' (although last is more valid here in Europe than in Texas County), I highly doubt they will ever consider something about some message being posted on some social website.

      Usually life/death consideration is higher rated than other stuff, so if they're too drunk to try avoid getting themselves killed in a road accident, I doubt that Twitter will

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      I agree totally that this is wrong, and the first mistake they make the ACLU will be all over them and run them into the ground, with payment for damages.

  • Terrible Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 228e2 (934443)
    Now, im as against DUI as any sane person, but theres a law about cruel and unusual punishment.

    You cant publicly scorn someone for doing Unlawful Deed A and not for B, C and D.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      You cant publicly scorn someone for doing Unlawful Deed A and not for B, C and D.

      Why not? The arrest is a public record.
      I, for one, look forward to the day that police put their arrest archives online, in an easily searchable format, with mugshots.
      Information wants to be free.

      • by tepples (727027)

        I, for one, look forward to the day that police put their arrest archives online, in an easily searchable format, with mugshots.

        As long as the archive makes it absolutely clear which arrests did not lead to conviction.

      • by Kijori (897770)

        You cant publicly scorn someone for doing Unlawful Deed A and not for B, C and D.

        Why not? The arrest is a public record.
        I, for one, look forward to the day that police put their arrest archives online, in an easily searchable format, with mugshots.
        Information wants to be free.

        Information doesn't want to be anything. You want this information to be freely available online - why?

        If police were perfect we wouldn't need judges or juries. Being arrested means that someone has made a mistake - but not necessarily the person who has been arrested. Making it easy to check if someone has been arrested would encourage people to use it as a criterion when interviewing someone, which would appear to go against the presumption of innocence. You need a pretty strong reason to rebut that - and

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "I, for one, look forward to the day that police put their arrest archives online, in an easily searchable format, with mugshots."

        Same here. All criminal records and arrest records should be online. Recently, we were prompted to look closer at our student population after a student murdered his mother and her SO. Turned out he was a convicted child molester too. Some folks need to be shunted away from the rest of us.

      • by Kartoffel (30238)

        Agreed. Police blotters may be "public record", but they're often not available unless you go down to the courthouse in person and dig them up. Local papers sometimes publish excerpts, but that information is edited and often locked behind a paywall.

        Putting the arrest archives online for all too see would also help keep the police honest. It's hard to cover up inconsistent and false arrests when the full archives are available to anyone.

  • Doubtful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:22AM (#30549804)

    This is one of those, "oh, it sounds good and makes me look tough on crime, therefore, it's a good idea" things. Not that it's a bad idea, but it's ineffective. If someone is drunk and things driving is a good idea I kind of doubt they'll be in the state of mind at the time to thing, "oh golly, if I get caught people on Twitter might know!" Not to mention that most people won't even know this is happening in the first place!

    This really is just some inane idea some bureaucrat thought up because it makes them look tough on crime and HEY LOOK TWITTER ISN'T THAT COOL. This is just some stunt someone thought up to make it look like they are getting paid for a good reason. The kind of gimmick that appeals to PHBs in corporate settings.

    • Sorry, make that "think," I can't believe I made that typo twice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpe (36238)
      This is one of those, "oh, it sounds good and makes me look tough on crime, therefore, it's a good idea" things. Not that it's a bad idea, but it's ineffective. If someone is drunk and things driving is a good idea I kind of doubt they'll be in the state of mind at the time to thing, "oh golly, if I get caught people on Twitter might know!" Not to mention that most people won't even know this is happening in the first place!

      There's also the problem that if the accused has a common name such "naming and sh
    • by Kartoffel (30238)

      @MindlessAutomata plus drunk tweeting is even less cool than doing it sober. #loltwitterisdumb

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:33AM (#30549850)

    Change your name to something longer than 140 characters.

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:34AM (#30549854) Homepage

    But the difference is, they blur the faces of those who haven't been found guilty (yet). They are also a news organization with no legal power, but this is a police (military) organization. These police are assuming guilt for anyone merely charged, so I suppose it's natural for them to also apply punishment.

    A few years in the future when the police will be scouring the streets performing judgments and executions on the spot, I'm afraid it will be too late for anyone to do anything about our lost rights. By then the court system will be a rarely used dusty relic of the past.

    • Wow, from twitter to public executions in just a few short years. I'm actually a bit speechless. And to think, this is just a more technological way of doing something that is already done in most towns across America: The Courthouse News section of the local paper. You know, where all the events that went through the courts are written out for the public to see. But, hey, you're right. Twitter feeds are definitely the step just before a tyrannical police dictatorship.
      • Wow, from twitter to public executions in just a few short years

        What are you talking about? It's already begun. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/03/11/18576256.php [indybay.org]

      • And this if you require something more deadly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKy-WSZMklc [youtube.com]

        It's not a slippery slope "argument". It's real. It's happening. It will get worse.

      • by Golddess (1361003)

        And to think, this is just a more technological way of doing something that is already done in most towns across America: The Courthouse News section of the local paper. You know, where all the events that went through the courts are written out for the public to see.

        See that part I bolded for you? That makes your comment completely irrelevant. Usually you're charged with something before you hit the courthouse.

  • Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:35AM (#30549856) Journal
    Because we all check twitter feeds containing nothing but hundreds of random names on the off-chance that someone we know has been drink driving.
  • by mark076h (1292842) on Friday December 25, 2009 @04:37AM (#30549866)
    The Denton Texas Police Department already does this, you can follow them on twitter here http://twitter.com/DentonPolicE [twitter.com]
  • Fact is, this publishing of names like this is a form of punishment for the crime.

    Fact is, the Constitutions of the United States AND the Constitution of Texas both say you cannot be deprived of privileges or property without due process. Due process means a conviction/guilty plea in a court of law.

    Fact is, people beat DUI charges all the time. They hire good lawyers at their own expense that know how to work the system. Those people are never found guilty of the crime, yet this twitter feed essentially

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      I wonder if a reasonably competent lawyer could make a legal argument that, as the publishing of your name on Twitter is clearly a punishment, you can't be tried for your charge due to already having been found guilty and punished for the same act before. If that flied, it could lead to a seriously unfavorable scenario if the first one to successfully try it were someone who happened to kill someone with his car.

      Plus, if a person is found innocent on DUI but has his name published, can he sue the police f
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Fact is, this publishing of names like this is a form of punishment for the crime.

      Fact is, the Constitutions of the United States AND the Constitution of Texas both say you cannot be deprived of privileges or property without due process. Due process means a conviction/guilty plea in a court of law.

      Fact is, people beat DUI charges all the time. They hire good lawyers at their own expense that know how to work the system. Those people are never found guilty of the crime, yet this twitter feed essentially punishes the innocent as determined by a court of law. It's unconstitutional, but it will cost time and money to fight this criminal act on the part of the police department.

      Fact is, the list of those arrested and the charges against them are published daily.
      Public records are not a punishment and are not unconstitutional.
      Feel free to go down to your local police/sherrif's station and ask to look at the blotter.

  • by sosume (680416) on Friday December 25, 2009 @05:17AM (#30549964) Journal

    In a hundred years, your grand-grand-grand kids will have fun googling their ancestry and finding that they were driving under influence ...
      nowait - doesn't the DA know that the internet never forgets? That anyone can find this informatiuon by just googling someone's name?
    "Hello i'm here for the job interview"- "Oh I see you had a DUI 32 years ago .. sorry we can't employ convicts here"

  • by jafo (11982) on Friday December 25, 2009 @06:47AM (#30550160) Homepage
    DUI is a terrible thing, and I won't defend it. However, I also know that beat officers will sometimes abuse their power. I grew up around sheriff's deputies, my mother worked in the department (in administration) and most of her friends were beat officers. So I got exposed to a lot of their stories.

    So, yeah, I'm sure that quite a lot of the people who get charged are guilty as hell. And I'm sure that some of the people who get cleared of the charges are cleared only on a technicality and they were guilty. If they have multiple tests

    However, I can imagine also that there are officers who, for whatever reason, may wrongfully charge someone. "I saw him leave a bar." Truth is he was the designated driver but had to go home early. "He was staggering." Truth is he had an inner ear infection that messed up his balance, or maybe he was messing with his smartphone while walking to the car. "He had dramatic variances in his speed." The truth was that he was doing the speed limit just fine until the officer started tailgating him, where he slowed down to reduce the chance of getting run into. What may be overwhelming evidence to the officer -- say if his breathalyzer in his car is broken, may be later found by the court to have other reasons, like the stumbling.

    This is why we have the courts hear the case before passing judgment, and the police don't do the conviction on the spot.

    The speed change part above happened to my wife a few years ago. She was pulled over and asked if she had been drinking because she dramatically slowed down. She slowed down because there was a giant SUV following her less than a car length away 55MPH. It was the officer's SUV. Why he wasn't in the next lane over, which was empty, I can't imagine.

    It is not the job of the "beat officer" to make a conviction -- it's the job of the courts to look at the evidence and make that determination. They can charge you with anything, and you can't make any defense of that charge to the officer. You have to make it to the court.

    The world today, here in the US, has a reality where posting something on the Internet, particularly from an official source like the police, will probably follow you around forever. And you'll never know if you didn't get that job offer because of this search result (which is probably highly ranked), because HR will tell you they just had a better candidate, if they tell you anything at all, because they don't want to be sued for making a bad decision.

    Sean
    • by houghi (78078)

      I am amazed that police could get a charge just for that. Where I live all they could do is pull you over and then take a breathalyser test, which might be followed by a blood test. Only then can the person be charged.
      I could walk on my knees out of a bar, get into my car and drive away all over the road. But unless some medical est has been done, They could not charge me with DUI. Dangerous driving? Sure and even contempt of the police if it was that I was sober and did it to play with them, but not drunk

  • by stimpleton (732392) on Friday December 25, 2009 @06:56AM (#30550182)
    I am from New Zealand but I presume attitudes are similar in other countries.

    20 years ago driving drunk was pretty much ignored by police and "as long as the car knew its way home" things were fine. I would imagine "young'uns" must really find this hard to imagine, but there was really nothing seen as wrong with DUI. You just did.

    Within 1/2 my lifetime(1/4 for some), the subject has gone from being seen as harmless, and perhaps something to laugh over at monday morning coffee to seeing a person caught going into custody, then potentialy jail, fines, loss of license, but more over, the social stigma, and potential job loss.

    I do not drink and drive any more, as I can see the logic of not, buts it mainly to avoid fines and job risk.

    Police sure make some money though. Those fines boost those coffers...just sayin'....
    • 20 years ago driving drunk was pretty much ignored by police and "as long as the car knew its way home" things were fine. I would imagine "young'uns" must really find this hard to imagine, but there was really nothing seen as wrong with DUI. You just did.

      USA poster here - The attitude you're describing pretty much ended in the late '70s. Twenty years ago drunk driving was a serious no-no, at least among the high school and college set. Mothers Against Drunk Driving had a lot of influence in the early '80s,

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's nice to know that "not accidentally killing someone" is 3rd on your list of reasons to not drive drunk. Or maybe the word I'm looking for is sociopathic.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I do not drink and drive any more, as I can see the logic of not, buts it mainly to avoid fines and job risk."

      DUI kills thousands of people every year (about 10K in the US in 2008). This is down 44 percent from 1982.
      Both casual drinkers and some drunks understand punishment, it work, so I favor more of it.

      My generation drank and drove, but now the same folks party at their homes and have places for their guests to crash until they are sober.

      http://www.totaldui.com/blog/dui-fatality-rate-has-fallen/ [totaldui.com]

  • It is an essential part of the justice process that arrest records are public, to prevent secret detentions, etc. This has already been discussed by other posters, and is why such records are already public, just not accessible in such a convenient manner. A group of private individuals could easily republish such records.

    Now, it is clear that the police should not be doing what is being described here, but the reason is that shaming is not part of the job description of the police. The reason is not that a

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Before you give me the argument that you need a roof over your head more than you need a fair and just employer, the only reason for the power imbalance is so many people like you fearing the loss of little comfort.

      Tell that to your kids when you're living in a shelter! Many people (along with their families) who get fired or not hired via the scenario you described, are facing a lot more than than the loss of "little comfort"? In a severely depressed job market, job loss can very realistically lead to not having a place to live and while I agree that it's important to assert our legal rights, the survival of one's family is not a trivial consideration.

  • I think anyone in this district who interacts with law enforcement should twitter accusations of police brutality and prosecutorial malfeasance.

    I mean, as long as were making public unproven allegations both sides should suffer the same consequences.

  • Another Texas town, Denton, twitters every single arrest [twitter.com] and has for months(maybe a year)... For at least 7 years (that I know of) they have posted every pic of every arrest on their website, with detailed charges too.
  • "charged with"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday December 25, 2009 @10:40AM (#30550796) Homepage Journal

    if they publish names of people that are only *charged*, it needs to be stopped and those responsible put in jail. While it is technically public record, there is no need to broadcast a persons name just due to suspicion and would just end up ruining peoples lives for nothing.

    Now, if they want to publish people *convicted*, and the story just used the wrong term, more power too them.

    • If you're charged with DWI it's because you failed a breathalyzer and sobriety test. You were drunk.

      If you manage to get the DWI charger reduced to DWUI or anything lesser, or get the charge thrown out on some BS legality (maybe your cousin is the police chief) it doesn't change the fact that you were driving drunk and endangering the lives of your neighbors and their children.

      Tough shit if you're embarassed by it being broadcast on Twitter.

  • Not Convicted? Are they going to Tweet and Text the names of people found innocent of the charge, or is this an attempt to subvert the law and incite vigilante justice?

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