Anything you Tweet may be used against you


Social media is making life a lot easier for cops and prosecutors to prove intent. An 18 year old California man was originally charged with vehicular manslaughter after “accidentally” killing a 58 year old cyclist in Dublin, California. When an ordinary vehicular accident results in a death, prosecutors can bring charges of manslaughter, a lesser form of homicide that is generally based on negligent or reckless behavior, without an intent to kill, or “malice”. A specific intent to kill, or “malice aforethought” is a generally required element of murder. When, however, there is evidence of the kind of reckless behavior that anyone should realize is likely to result in death, malice can be implied and murder charged.

Imagine, for example, a man points a gun into a movie theater and fires indiscriminately, killing someone. He later claims “Hey, I didn’t intend to kill her, I didn’t even know she was there”. That kind of behavior is obviously so full of general ill will that the element of malice needed for a murder charge can be presumed just by virtue of the behavior.

In this case, prosecutors had the idea to check the young man’s twitter account and found several tweets before the incident bragging about how fast he had been speeding through the area and making statements like “Live Fast, Die Young”. This was enough evidence of intent to cause prosecutors to upgrade his charges to murder.

Remember, anything you post anywhere on the Internet is permanent, forever, and likely to be retrievable by someone somewhere for whatever purpose suit them. If you’re not comfortable having it broadcast to the world, for crying out loud, don’t post it or tweet it.

– RP