Being arrested for suspicion of DWI is bad enough. Names are released in newspapers and in some cases on billboards in Texas. Relatively untapped were the social media websites such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter Texas District Attorney Brett Ligon raised eyebrows when he decided to Tweet all DWI arrests through his public Twitter account.
Former County Vehicular Crimes Prosecutor and current Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam thought of doing this as a way to discourage drunk drivers. “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,” Diepramm said.
This means any individual arrested under suspicion of DWI could have his or her name publicly released within hours, even if the arrest never lead to a charge or if the person was found innocent at a later date. Individuals concerned with both personal privacy and the right to remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law have taken offense to this practice. The lasting effects can also be found on search engines for many years, whether the final verdict is guilty or not, public perception is altered.
As many people, including district attorneys, will admit, there are hundreds of arrests made for DWI each weekend in any state that will not result in convictions. A person arrested for DWI may be able to challenge the procedures followed during an arrest, the breath test results, an officer’s observations and a host of other items leading to a DWI arrest.
Unfortunately, many employers will jump to conclusions following a DWI arrest. Those individuals employed in a position that relies on the ability to drive will suffer the worst consequences. Persons serving in public service roles or caring for children may also face consequences if a DWI arrest is announced before a conviction is made.
Hawaii offered a similar service, a website dedicated to mugshots of those arrested for DWI each day. This website has been pulled of the internet to be evaluated by the Police Department. Technically, arrests made are public information. However, the use of new technologies like Twitter may make these arrests into more public humiliation than just public information.