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Canada Crime Transportation Your Rights Online

Online Forum Speeding Boast Leads To Conviction 457

Posted by Soulskill
from the life-in-the-fast-lane dept.
Meshach writes "In Canada, a nineteen-year-old man has lost his driving license for six months and is facing one year of probation after the police arrested him for dangerous driving as a result of a post on an online message board. The tip apparently came from an uninvolved American who called the Canadian authorities after he saw the post bragging about how fast the man went."
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Online Forum Speeding Boast Leads To Conviction

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  • by tumutbound (549414) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:11AM (#33213054)
    What evidence was there, other than the bloggers post, that an offence had occurred? How could the police charge him without it?
  • by Psaakyrn (838406) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:20AM (#33213092)
    So, if I said I just caused world peace, does that mean I win myself the Nobel Peace Prize?
  • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:33AM (#33213154)

    The problem is there's no way to prove the physical connection between who typed that comment and posted the pictures and the person potentially breaking the law.

    What if he had a falling out with his brother and his brother used the computer to try and frame him for example?

    This is quite different to someone admitting in front of witnesses they have committed a crime, because there the witnesses have witnessed the perpetrator in question admitting the crime directly.

    This is the fundamental problem with computer crimes, people are arrested and convicted on much lower standards of evidence than have come to be expected in real life. Say a computer is used for a crime online, and the police trace the IP back to the house, and they can somehow prove the IP has always been attached to that computer and only that computer and they search that computer and find evidence of the crime, then can they prove the owner of the computer committed it? Say they check for finger prints and DNA evidence on the keyboard even, can they prove someone didn't just plug in another keyboard for the purpose of carrying out the crime?

    It's the fundamental disconnect between the system used to commit the crime and the person who used that system to commit it that is the problem, and short of someone making a mistake and incriminating themselves physically in real life or someone physically witnessing the crime being committed I'm not sure it's ever possible to conclusively prove people responsible for digital crimes, at best you can get a decent amount of evidence, but many cases of non-digital crimes upto and including the most serious have fallen flat on such low standards of evidence even where the person is guilty.

    I'm not familiar with this case, but I hope he was convicted on the basis that he also admitted guilt in real life, in person, and not purely on an internet posting as that'd be a bad precedent, a green light for smart criminals to frame people for anything from this sort of crime through to child porn crimes to hacking crimes.

    A crime being linked to an IP seems fair enough justification to investigate the system or systems behind that IP and their owners, but not enough in itself to fairly secure a conviction.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:34AM (#33213156)

    I think the pictures and videos are the important elements, because they constitute actual evidence. Otherwise, there are fairly stringent tests for what makes something a legitimate confession that's admissible in court. People do sometimes brag about things they didn't actually do, especially in pseudo-anonymous environments, and that isn't a crime. It may be stupid, and it may cause you a lot of hassle as you try to convince police / a judge that you were just making empty boasts, but courts do still have to try to sort that out: if they determine the confession was indeed not a genuine confession, it isn't sufficient for conviction.

    For things of this sort, I don't think police would normally pursue it even IRL unless there were more evidence (like the photos/video in this case). If someone in a high-school hallway tells their friend that they were going 90 last night, that's pretty weak evidence, since it's quite likely to just be bravado.

  • by Psaakyrn (838406) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:35AM (#33213160)
    Why shouldn't it swing both ways? Doesn't the policeman have to make sure that there's actually a dead person? Or say instead, I told a policeman that you just stabbed me in the face. Doesn't the policeman have to make sure that actually happened before he arrests you?
  • Re:Snitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:37AM (#33213168)

    Speeding and then bragging about it is unacceptable. That's willfully risking the lives of other people. It is good that a young driver learns this lesson early, before he kills someone with that attitude. The road is not a race track.

  • by tumutbound (549414) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @05:43AM (#33213194)
    This is not the same as admitting guilt. It's making a statement that has no supporting evidence. The article referred to made no mention of videos or pictures of the alleged infringement. When questioned by police, the person in question could just say ' I really didn't drive that fast, I just said that to compensate for having a tiny dick". It's not against the law to lie in a blog.
  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:02AM (#33213258)

    This should be modded up. I was going to say something similar. Someone could be bragging and be using doctored video indeed. But, more importantly, is there a timestamp to the video? Like, maybe someone did it years ago. What prevents from someone being charged multiple times for the same crime if there lacks a timestamp? Aside from one's aging body.

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:05AM (#33213266)

    I'm actually rather impressed at the attitude of the other forum members. Most of them felt it was a bad choice and put pedestrians who might have been in the area at risk, suggesting the racer should go to a local track instead to wind up his wheels.

  • by Robert Zenz (1680268) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:10AM (#33213284) Homepage
    He went 90mph in a residential street? And then he's saying that he's a careful and experienced driver with 19? I do not own a drivers license (because I didn't needed one or cared about it) so I'm not going to pretend that I know what I'm talking about, but...can we get a ban for some years on such people?
  • by Narcogen (666692) <narcogen&narcogen,com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:13AM (#33213292) Homepage

    The problem is there's no way to prove the physical connection between who typed that comment and posted the pictures and the person potentially breaking the law.

    What if he had a falling out with his brother and his brother used the computer to try and frame him for example?

    This is quite different to someone admitting in front of witnesses they have committed a crime, because there the witnesses have witnessed the perpetrator in question admitting the crime directly.

    This is the fundamental problem with computer crimes, people are arrested and convicted on much lower standards of evidence than have come to be expected in real life. Say a computer is used for a crime online, and the police trace the IP back to the house, and they can somehow prove the IP has always been attached to that computer and only that computer and they search that computer and find evidence of the crime, then can they prove the owner of the computer committed it? Say they check for finger prints and DNA evidence on the keyboard even, can they prove someone didn't just plug in another keyboard for the purpose of carrying out the crime?

    It's the fundamental disconnect between the system used to commit the crime and the person who used that system to commit it that is the problem, and short of someone making a mistake and incriminating themselves physically in real life or someone physically witnessing the crime being committed I'm not sure it's ever possible to conclusively prove people responsible for digital crimes, at best you can get a decent amount of evidence, but many cases of non-digital crimes upto and including the most serious have fallen flat on such low standards of evidence even where the person is guilty.

    I'm not familiar with this case, but I hope he was convicted on the basis that he also admitted guilt in real life, in person, and not purely on an internet posting as that'd be a bad precedent, a green light for smart criminals to frame people for anything from this sort of crime through to child porn crimes to hacking crimes.

    A crime being linked to an IP seems fair enough justification to investigate the system or systems behind that IP and their owners, but not enough in itself to fairly secure a conviction.

    Such claims are repeated often and aren't quite as meritorious as people think, especially when the standard of proof is merely "beyond a reasonable doubt".

    Let's say you trace an IP to a given household during the period in question. On the basis of the forum post and the IP identification, you get a warrant and search the computer. You gain access to logfiles, cookies, browser history. Even if the computer is shared, you'll gain some information that would corroborate the forum post.

    You may well allege, at this point, that the IP, the logfiles, the forum post, and all of this other, admittedly circumstantial evidence, points only to the computer. But that's not entirely true. You may gain access to other online identities this person uses.

    The site itself may show you the poster's history, corroborating other elements of the story-- that correlate between the individual in question and the online identity which made the claim. If the content of other posts by the same online identity, also made from the same IP address, from the same computer at the same address, are consistent with other details of the individual's life, then that also generates a relatively high level of confidence in the accuracy of the post. Perhaps the poster's own history contains other, similar claims.

    At that point, the question does not become whether or not all this circumstantial evidence proves unequivocally that the suspect was the one who actually made that post, and thus committed the infraction in question, but whether that is more or less plausible than believing that this single post, among all others made by that identity on one or more sites, which are consistent with being made by the suspect, was made fraudulently by someone else with ac

  • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:17AM (#33213302)

    I think the pictures and videos are the important elements, because they constitute actual evidence. Otherwise, there are fairly stringent tests for what makes something a legitimate confession that's admissible in court. People do sometimes brag about things they didn't actually do, especially in pseudo-anonymous environments, and that isn't a crime. It may be stupid, and it may cause you a lot of hassle as you try to convince police / a judge that you were just making empty boasts, but courts do still have to try to sort that out: if they determine the confession was indeed not a genuine confession, it isn't sufficient for conviction.

    Which is not to say it won't fuck your life up royally.

    Interviewer: "So, can you explain what you've been doing for the last 9 months?"
    Interviewee: "I was remanded in custody because I wanted to look big and clever and so bragged about a serious crime which I didn't commit"
    Interviewer: "Okay, so we've established that you're a prat. Have you got any questions you'd like to ask me?"

  • by abhi_beckert (785219) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:42AM (#33213418)

    As someone who owns a motorbike with similar performance to that M5 (though it's almost 10 times cheaper!), I have to say there really are times when 100KPH over the speed limit is still safe.

    I don't know if these particular circumstances were safe... but he may have been able to accelerate to that speed and drop back down to safe speeds over a very short stretch of road... one where you may have perfect visibility of potential dangers.

    Laws based on fixed speed/rules suck. There should be only one offense: driving dangerously under the conditions. Traffic police should be required to prove that it was dangerous every time.

    Disclaimer: I was recently fined $300 for something that would have, at the very worst, given me a few bruises if I'd fallen off my bike.

  • Re:Snitch (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:49AM (#33213444)

    OTOH, not speeding but bragging that you did so is typical human nature.

    Statements made online are neither the equivalent of testifying in court nor expected to be 100% TRUE. If the only "evidence" the cops had was his online statement, they had no evidence at all.

  • Re:Snitch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RichiH (749257) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:51AM (#33213454) Homepage

    Speeding in a residential area is unacceptable.

    Fixed that for you.

    And then, it still depends on how much you speed and context. Point in case, there is a school (i.e. 30 km/h for about 50 meters) directly after a normal out-of-city street (i.e. 100 km/h). During the last school holidays, they left the limit signs up. Was it wrong to go through those 50 meters at 50 km/h, which is the normal inner city speed? Especially since they removed the signs during this holiday season and in the ones before?

  • by xmundt (415364) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @06:52AM (#33213456)

    Greetings and Salutations.
              I pulled up that area in google maps (would have preferred openstreetmap.org, but, the blasted search still is too limited). It is a densely populated area, so I suspect it was hardly an hour's work for a couple of officers to canvass the street and find witnesses to the speeding car. It would be interesting to find out how many times there had been complaints from the area about dangerous driving.
              My bottom line here is that the kid is getting off easy, as there easily could have been a pedestrian stepping out into the road just in time to get smashed by his foolish act. If he wanted to put the pedal to the metal, perhaps he should have picked the Canadian equivalent of an Interstate highway to open it up.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @07:05AM (#33213514) Journal

    This short post couldn't be more wrong.

    (1) It's English, the language very occasionally spoken on the Internet.

    Rate = x per y, where y is likely a time unit.

    e.g. miles per hour
    e.g. kilometres per second
    e.g. dumb assertions made by /. poster per day

    High rate = high x per y.

    (2) Sufficiently high acceleration in an urban area will certainly attract a fine for your local equivalent of dangerous driving. It may even be in violation of a city noise ordinance [lexisone.com].

  • Re:Snitch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @07:40AM (#33213632)

    No. The man basically confessed to a crime. The forum post is their 'evidence'. It's not even hearsay, as it came directly from the 'horses mouth' so to speak. If you're going to brag about a crime, you damn well better make sure you did it, because your liable if they choose to prosecute, and those bragging rights will cost you. I'm assuming those above who are rightfully being modded as trolls and crying about 'snitches' and 'minding their own business' don't have children, or have ever thought long enough to think about everything that can go wrong when racing in a residential area. An automobile which is ok to drive on public roads is not a recreational vehicle, and has been considered a deadly weapon when used in such a manner and things took a turn for the worse.

    What if such a person killed one of your family?

    Would you be so forgiving then?

    Statements made online are neither the equivalent of testifying in court nor expected to be 100% TRUE. If the only "evidence" the cops had was his online statement, they had no evidence at all.

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:40AM (#33214068) Homepage Journal

    100 km/hr over the speed limit safe?

    Not on public roads. 100 km/hr period is not safe on a residential street or any other roadway that gets significant pedestrian traffic crossing.

    Part of driving safely is being predictable, and nobody expects somebody to overtake them from a quarter km back in under ten seconds. I had a friend who once pulled this stunt on me. We were on a relatively deserted stretch of interstate in his brand new sports car when he turned to me and said, "watch this." Then he punched it. It was like going to hyperspeed. We hit 155 mph (200 km/hr).

    At 200km/hr the horizon comes up very fast. There was an underpass with a slight rise past it, and as we zoomed under it I thought, "what if there's a little econobox trying to pass a big rig up this grade?"

    As important as control is to driving safety, it's a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. A machine that gives you plenty of control allows you to drive faster than is safe with the illusion of safety, until you discover you need inhumanly fast reflexes to avoid trouble. Furthermore, my friend was totally focused on what was in front of him (as was I). For all we knew we were leaving a dangerous trail of startled drivers behind us.

    If I'd been a cop, I'd have arrested my friend on the spot, friend or not. If I'd been the judge, I'd have thrown him in jail. It was an incredibly stupid, inconsiderate, and unnecessary thing to do. Fortunately my friend got the message, and shortly thereafter he found a closed track and got the need for speed out of his system, becoming an exemplary driver after that.

    Nobody's impressed by your ability to drive faster than most people would on a residential street. That doesn't take balls, it just takes a willingness to endanger other people who, by the way, don't get to share in the fun. Go to the track, where you can push yourself as far as you dare, and we'll see what you're made of.

  • by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:46AM (#33214122)

    You misunderstand the point of the rules of the road. They're not to punish drivers after they've driven dangerously. They're an attempt to prevent drivers from ever driving dangerously. So when you get to the point where a situation may turn dangerous, the law should have the power to stop you. Driving is not some game. Lives are at stake. Nobody gives a shit if YOU bruise your knee, or if YOU fall off and die because of a stupid decision you make. That's why there are tracks that let you drive faster than normal road conditions allow - go sign a waiver and use those tracks if you want to go fast. What we care about is even the remote possibility that you may end a human life - or, perhaps worse, not quite end a human life.

    Speed limits generally take into consideration road conditions and population density. They're not simply arbitrary. If you go significantly over the speed limit, you are driving too dangerously for us. Take your bike off the road and go to a track if you want to go fast.

  • Re:Snitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:57AM (#33214238) Journal

    What if such a person killed one of your family?

    In that case there'd be other evidence. Plus, you're making a circular argument, by assuming we already know the person did it - here the question is whether he is guilty or not.

    Yes I have no sympathy for people actually speeding, but it's not clear that online confessions amount to proof in general. Note, even if people confess in a police interview - and even for crimes such as murder, as you suggest - a confession is not necessarily sufficient proof. People may confess for a variety of reasons other than them being guilty (protecting someone, being intimidated; in this story, reasons might include thinking it's cool to claim you were going fast).

    What if it was another crime - someone claiming they'd taken drugs, or drunk when they were under age, or describing their first sexual experience which was under age? Okay for the police to charge all of them, too?

  • Re:Snitch (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RichiH (749257) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:03AM (#33214288) Homepage

    > Yes, it's wrong. What makes you so special that you can ignore posted limits, regardless of what you think their reason is?

    Interesting approach. Are you telling me you never ever in your whole life assessed a situation, came to the conclusion that whatever a sign tells you is wrong and/or it was left in place by mistake and did something else instead?

    You are free to disagree in this specific situation, but unless you are a holy sage, you broke some rules, somewhere, sometime.

    > I'd also like to know more about this power of clairvoyance you have that makes you so certain there wasn't remedial school in session, or a youth program, or any other activity that might have been a reason to leave the signs up.

    It was a basic school so no summer school or similar takes place, ever. And yes, I would have known if stuff happenend there.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:18AM (#33214426)
    The difference being that Obama was the first to get a Nobel Peace Prize for just claiming that he was going to make peace (without giving any particular details about how he was going to do that). This topic is not really a criticism of Obama, but instead it is a criticism of those who awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize (although one could argue that only someone who was guilty of hubris would have accepted it under these circumstances...not an argument that I feel stands by itself, there are several other reasons that would explain accepting it when it clearly was undeserved at that time).
  • Re:Snitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rary (566291) * on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:55AM (#33214866)

    Yes I have no sympathy for people actually speeding, but it's not clear that online confessions amount to proof in general. Note, even if people confess in a police interview - and even for crimes such as murder, as you suggest - a confession is not necessarily sufficient proof. People may confess for a variety of reasons other than them being guilty (protecting someone, being intimidated; in this story, reasons might include thinking it's cool to claim you were going fast).

    The police don't need proof. The police need enough evidence to make an arrest.

    The courts look for proof. If there's not enough evidence, he won't get convicted.

    If he didn't do it, then the lesson is simple: don't confess to a crime you didn't commit, because, surprise surprise, you might just get charged with that crime.

  • Re:Snitch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haffner (1349071) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:02AM (#33214926)
    Most sites that have forums for potentially illegal topics usually have people use SWIM - Someone Who Isn't Me - to describe themselves. For exactly this reason.
  • by spmkk (528421) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:32AM (#33215254)

    In the end, the guy pleaded guilty not just on the internet but in a court of law.

    He's a scared 19-year-old up against a police department that wants to have him up on a cross. His parents (who obviously failed to teach him when it's OK to push your luck and when it's not) are probably siding with the cops to now "teach him a lesson", so he's got no one in his corner.

    Put yourself in that position, and imagine the DA (or whatever Canadian equivalent) gives you a choice between pleading guilty and not driving for half a year, or facing jail time if you contest the charge. You'd plead guilty too, even if it IS a gross violation of due process - you don't have the requisite tools/experience to fight the system, and knowing that you were legally right is of little consolation when you're being savaged by your cell mate.

    This guy may or may not have been speeding.If he actually was (which I personally do think, but that's irrelevant), there is no way a witness could identify him. At 87mph, you can't read a license plate or even identify the model of the car. The best you can do is say a white BMW went by really fast. If we're really saying that's good enough to convict someone who has a white BMW because, well, he's a teenager and should be taught to slow down -- despite how the law is written -- then we may as well do away with police and courts altogether and go back to lynch mobs.

    (Incidentally, if you actually read the thread where he posted his boast, you'll see that after enough people pointed out the error of his ways he came around and agreed with them. Lesson learned. The best education comes from your peers and the people you look up to, not the people you're afraid of.)

    As an aside, the snitch in question who thought the best use of his time in the U.S. was to call Canada and report that one of their citizens might have been speeding should be outed and dealt with appropriately.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @11:02AM (#33215626) Journal

    Speed limits generally take into consideration road conditions and population density. They're not simply arbitrary.

    Of course they're arbitrary. In the UK you have a speed limit of 60mph (max) for single lane roads, 70 mph for dual-carriageways motorways.

    The single track road might be a congested winding country lane or an empty dead straight smooth A-road.

    The motorway might be crawling like the M25 during rush hour orbe light on traffic with two clear lanes and excellent visibility.

    There are plenty of times when you can get to 180 mph (talking about bikes) and not be dangerous. The middle of a city is *obviously* not one of them.

    I can't believe the number of posts on this thread which on any other subject would have attracted a derisory "but think of the children" flood of sneers.

  • Re:Snitch (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @11:55AM (#33216124)
    Hi, my name is Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2006, I shot and killed 50 people. Last week, I drove 70mph on the interstate near a playground full of kids. The cops will never know because I am so smart, see, I posted it online! Muahahaha! Also: You read it on the interwebs so it must be true.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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