The Washington Post

Facebook post on drunk driving lands teen in hot water

SAN ANSELMO, CA - MAY 09: The Facebook website is displayed on a laptop computer on May 9, 2011 in San Anselmo, California. An investigation by The Pew Research Center found that Facebook has become a player in the news industry as the popular social media site is driving an increasing amount of traffic to news web sites. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

An Oregon teen who posted a little too much information on Facebook found himself in hot water with the police after two of his friends on the site reported his activities to local authorities.

According to a report from the Daily Astorian in Astoria, Ore., also posted on the Facebook page for the local police department, 18-year-old Jacob Cox-Brown was arrested after telling his Facebook network that he had hit a car while driving drunk.

The teen sent this message out to friends on the site: “Drivin drunk ... classsic ;) but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P”

According to the report, two of Cox-Brown’s friends saw the message and sent it along to two separate local police officers. In a statement given to the newspaper, the department said that they received word of the post through a private Facebook message to one of its officers.

After receiving the tip, police then went to Cox-Brown’s house and were able to match a vehicle there to one that had hit two others in the early hours of the morning. They then charged the teen with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver, the report said.

Bradley Shear, a Maryland-based attorney specializing in social media law, said that this is a prime example of social media users being seemingly unaware of the digital footprint they’re leaving with their posts — and the consequences they may face from an update.

“You never know who’s watching,” he said. “Once you post online, it can be repurposed in ways you never expected”

There is growing precedent for law enforcement officials using public social media disclosures in legal cases, Shear said.

For example, a 2009 Facebook post served as an alibi for a Brooklyn teen accused of a robbery. As the New York Post reported at the time, Rodney Bradford was released from jail when prosecutors discovered that he’d posted a status update to his account from his father’s apartment in Brooklyn a minute before the robbery took place. Backed up by other witness accounts, the post was enough to exonerate the teen.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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