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MySpace Mistakes & Facebook Follies

If MySpace and Facebook mean anything, looking like a clown is the new cool.[1] However, if you’ve been charged with a crime, you might want to consider at least temporarily re-vamping the camp: a MySpace makeover could keep you from suffering a stiffer sentence if you are convicted. A Facebook face-lift can make it easier for your lawyer to convince the District Attorney you deserve a break.

State agents — this includes the police, prosecutors and judges — sincerely want to make the world a better place. I may disagree with their methods, but I have no doubt that nearly all of them actually do have this as a primary goal.

Thus, an individual accused person’s behavior and appearance can significantly help or hurt their case at all stages, from arrest to prosecution to conviction. In fact, I’ve won several cases where it mattered.

It may not be appropriate to express remorse after pleading guilty and before being convicted, since that would seem to contradict the NOT GUILTY plea. However, there’s nothing wrong with dressing and behaving in a way that shows some respect for the situation. In one recent case I had, my client showed up with a t-shirt that said something like “PIMPmaster” on the front. In another, my client and a co-defendant slouched in their chairs, chatted with one another and appeared to be joking and laughing about the situation, while the judge was talking to another co-defendant. In neither case was the court impressed. Each of these individuals was lectured and you can bet their behavior factored in to decisions the court made about them.

So it was no surprise to me to read that people convicted of crimes are receiving stiffer sentences because of their MySpace and Facebook pages. Two cases mentioned in the story involved drunk driving charges. And, again, that’s no surprise to me. Most of the MySpace or Facebook pages that I’ve seen seem to accentuate the partying side of the person owning them.

Another thing that a lot of Californians don’t realize is that police and prosecutors are anxious to charge brown people with short hair as “gangsters.” Under the law in California and some other states, being a gang member will get you in trouble with the law.[2] Not infrequently, people who are not gang members are arrested and prosecuted on gang charges. A MySpace or Facebook page showing the individual “flashing gang signs” becomes “evidence” of gang involvement. Making the pages or images “private” doesn’t necessarily help.

So if you find yourself in legal trouble, one of the first things you might want to do is take a look at your online social networking profiles. Attorneys these days should probably talk to their clients about these things, as well, and ask clients for the URLs to any social networking pages they maintain. And if you’re the sort of person who tends to get into trouble, don’t advertise the fact on MySpace or Facebook.

Ignore this advice and you may have new images to post on your account. You may even end up with a new account.



Footnotes
  1. In the interest of staying alive, I’ve decided not to post any examples.
  2. Technically, being a gang member is not illegal and any laws saying so would be officially unconstitutional. That doesn’t have any impact on reality. If you are, or if the police think you are, a gang member, you are public enemy number one.
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