Welcome to 2014. A new IPhone is supposed to come out and the technological landscape seems endless. With endless horizons, however, come unknown dangers. Adults may not yet completely understand this technology. Our kids do, though.
They understand it just enough to get themselves into trouble.
“Innocent girl on Instagram flipping the bird.
Perking lips with her curves, showing more skin than her shirt.
And she’s beautiful, but half naked, I wonder why.
But what the hell can I tell her yo? She just passed a hundred likes.
A false percentage of people who appear like they care enough About her.”*
Ah yes, the all-important likes. The more “likes” you have, the more popular you must be. So, kids like to push the limits online to gain that popularity.
As we have discussed many times in the past, though, there are many dangers lurking in cyberspace. This being a criminal law blog, let’s look at the criminal justice dangers. Primarily, posting certain things can not only be dangerous, but illegal Massachusetts cyber-crimes as well.
For example, possessing or sending photographs or videos of naked children brings about charges regarding child pornography which can land one in prison and force one to register as a sex offender for a long, long time.
We have seen many cases where someone posts something that can be interpreted as a threat. Criminal charges often come.
For a long time now attorneys have learned to check online to find information about adverse witnesses. On Facebook and Twitter, you would be surprised what you might find voluntarily posted.
Let’s turn to the Commonwealth’s neighbor to provide a very recent example.
This past weekend, in Merrimack, New Hampshire, an anonymous tipster advised authorities about local teens who were tweeting about an underage party.
Sure enough, law enforcement investigated and four teenagers ended up arrested.
Paige Graef, and adult at 18, was charged with facilitating the underaged drinking party at her home as well as the possession of marijuana. Jared Wagner, Elizabeth Shambo and Heather Normandy, all 18 as well, were arrested for marijuana possession.
All are due back in Merrimack District Court later this month.
According to the police, there was a large of underage drinkers at the home who were not arrested but released to the custody of an adult.
Tweets and postings are generally available to most, if not all, of the public. After all, that is the point. To communicate and be popular, right?
Attorney Sam’s take on Kids, Cyberspace And Criminal Activity
Statements made by party opponents (in other words, your adversary in court) are admissible. It is an exception to the regular rules against hearsay. In other words, statements made by you, whether orally or in writing can be admitted as evidence against you.
“But, Sam, can’t you bring a motion to suppress? After all, what gives the police the right to track your private conversations?”
In this case, they were not tracking private conversations…they were tracking public conversations.
No legal expectation of privacy. No motion to suppress.
I have handled a great many cases in which the government seeks to convict a defendant primarily on his or her own admissions.
“So, you are saying that the statements the kids made to each other guarantee a conviction?”
Well, if you are a regular reader of mine, you know the answer to that. Very few, if any, results can be guaranteed. One never says “never” about any litigation.
The reading of the tweets gave the police the information to go to the party and discover what was there (although an argument could be made against that for reasons I will not get into here). However, it sounds like the tweets were done prior to the party. Assuming that to be true, then, while the statements mention an intent to have the party…they are not really admissions of having done the partying. Further, we are unaware of any mention of the marihuana.
The lesson, however, is clear.
What you post in public…is posted in public!
That goes for pictures, statements and all kinds of private information.
“Girl, why the hell you do that? What you thinking today?
What? You’re missing a feeling or you can’t get one away?
Those pictures where you’re stripping really stripping your Innocent name.
You think those Instagram filters will filter your pain?”*
In short, this is not the ultra-safe world if feels like. You may be all cozy while you are posting in your bedroom…but the response you may receive (even potentially years down the line) may be anything but cozy.
* Lyrics from “Talk To You”, a new music video dropped today by my favorite rapper, Token, and available at http://youtu.be/Qq5Vdx_QbVo . Additional information at Token at www.tokenhiphop.com .
For the full story upon which this blog is based, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/09/08/teens-arrested-after-police-get-wind-tweets-alleged-underaged-party/zIHdaapFi88YvxDUR9iZFO/story.html