A couple years ago I wrote about a young man who stole a car and an iPhone and then posted a picture of himself in the stolen car, using that stolen iPhone. It wasn’t long before he realized police check Facebook, too, and he was arrested for his misdeeds.
“Hoisted by his own petard,” as Shakespeare once said about another hapless soul in Hamlet.
For purists, A “petard” is an explosive device — let’s say a bucket of gunpowder — intended to demolish gates and fortified walls; being too close to the bomb could well cause the perpetrator serious problems.
As many people — young and old — have come to discover, the Web’s social media can be explosive devices themselves, ready to blow up the individual who posts or tweets incriminating information about himself or herself. It is a constant amazement to many observers that these self-disclosers just don’t get this fact.
If you don’t like the explosive metaphor, just think of a petard as a big bear trap that you fall into after you’ve forgotten you put it there.
Of course the latest case in point is an 18-year-old teen from Astoria, Ore., who posted on his Facebook page that he had been driving drunk on New Year’s Day. It wasn’t long before police were knocking on his door.
They had been investigating a hit-and-run incident in Astoria when someone tipped them off to a Facebook post by the teen. It read, “Drviing drunk … classic:) but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry.”
When police went to his home, they did — in fact — find the teen’s car damaged on the right front fender. And they also found pieces of his car at the scene of the hit-and-run wherein two other cars were damaged, according to media reports in the Christian Science Monitor and KCBS-TV in San Fransisco.
As a result, the teen was charged with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver. Not surprisingly, when the young suspect was interviewed by a television reporter later, he said he was only joking about driving drunk. Too much time had passed for police to confirm or deny that.
The teen escaped a charge of driving drunk because of the several hours between the incident and when police interviewed him. Astoria Deputy Police Chief Brad Johnston told the Christian Science Monitor, “We can’t just convict somebody based on the fact that hey said they were drunk.”
Police use FB, too
Johnston did explain that his department scans the social media routinely, and that various posts have been helpful to leading them to criminal suspects in the past.
The moral of the story to Deputy Johnston it is to forget about posting your misdeeds on the social media. “The message is to stop and contact people when you run into their cars,” he said.
Not a bad takeaway.