Ashley Sullivan of North Tonawanda, NY, learned that lesson the hard way. Last May she was behind the wheel of a car with an alcohol concentration of .13 and her boyfriend was in the passenger seat. Ms. Sullivan crashed into a wall and her boyfriend was killed instantly.
Last November, Ms. Sullivan pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and DWI. She returned to court for sentencing on Wednesday where she received six months in jail followed by five years probation. Niagra County Judge Matthew Murphy III told Ms. Sullivan that he sentenced her to jail because he was "troubled by [her] conduct" since the accident.
And what was the conduct Judge Murphy was troubled by? It turns out that Ms. Sullivan posted pictures to her Facebook account a month after the crash under the caption "Drunk in Florida."
When defense attorney Glenn Murray said in court, "This young woman is remorseful," someone laughed among a crowd of more than two dozen of the victim's friends and relatives, drawing a reprimand from the judge.
While Ms. Sullivan shouldn't be punished for other things she may have done since the accident, the lack of remorse demonstrated by her Facebook post certainly played a role in the imposition of a jail sentence in addition to probation. When determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence, a judge is going to take the defendant's circumstances into account - and that includes acts of contrition, evidence of remorse and the acceptance of responsibility. Ms. Sullivan would have been in a lot better shape had she decided to attend AA meetings instead of posting pictures of her drinking.
Social media can be a great way to keep up with people, but when you are the one under the glare of the lights -- it's probably best to go off-line.
- "Facebook enhancement for drunk driving provides notable example of social-media sentencing" Sentencing Law and Policy (Jan. 28, 2010)
- "Who needs a PSR when there's Facebook" Simple Justice (Jan. 28, 2010)
- "Remember to think before you post online" The Defense Rests (Aug. 7, 2009)