Dec 252011
 

Bruce Carton at Legal Blog Watch notes a difference of opinion from police in Canada regarding the propriety of tweeting the location of DUI checkpoints.

The Edmonton police believe it abets drunk driving and thus shouldn’t be done. Citing a CBC article on the subject:

“Putting lives in danger based on the fact that you want to have more followers on your Twitter account is pretty disappointing,” said checkstop co-ordinator Const. Ian Brooks.

Brooks is asking people to consider how they would feel if a drunk driver who avoided a checkstop ended up causing a collision that hurt someone.

“Maybe that one time that we would have actually picked them up and prevented something in the future, maybe that’s enabling them to commit further offences and to put everyone in jeopardy,” Brooks said.

According to the CBC, Calgary police also disfavor the practice.

“We don’t see any value in warning people in advance of how to avoid that detection,” he said. “We want them caught and we want them off the streets.”

The police in Regina share the same view. On the other hand, the police in Saskatoon have no problem with it.

Alyson Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Saskatoon police, said it will be OK if people who see a check-point share that information on Twitter.

“As a service, there is no point in ignoring the fact that people are going to spread the word amongst their friends,” Edwards told CBC News Wednesday.’

She said one goal of their check-point program is get get people to think about the consequences of drinking and driving, before they head out.

She said people who are drinking may think twice about driving, if they know officers are out.

The article about the Edmonton police quotes Doug King, an associate professor of justice studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University as saying there was no law against such tweets.

“God forbid, you tweeted me and I got out on the road and killed someone and I was impaired, there would be no way that you could be held responsible for my actions.”

Dec 242011
 

Canadian lawyer Antonin Pribetic reports that for the past six months he’s had to defend himself against a professional ethics charge made by an anonymous (at least to him) source who took offense to some of his tweets. That matter has now concluded that “no disciplinary proceedings should […] be initiated as a result of this complaint and that this matter should be closed.”

For any lawyer to face a formal complaint from a governing law society or bar association is professionally worrisome and emotionally taxing. The fact that the complaint is subjectively frivolous is irrelevant; until the bar complaint is formally dismissed and the file is officially closed, your professional and personal life remains in turmoil.

You can imagine the amount of time it took for me to respond to numerous letters from the Law Society requesting explanations, clarifications and re-clarifications; all valuable time that I will never get back. The distraction was unnecessary and a disservice to the Law Society’s regulatory mandate.

Admittedly, the Twitter complaint weighed heavily on my mind , as well as my heart. The price of expressing strong opinions and speaking out against social media fraud is having a large bulls-eye painted on my back.

(h/t Rick Horowitz)

Dec 242011
 

The Northhampton Chronicle & Echo has an article about an English mother who was charged with contempt of court after posting on her Facebook profile the judgement by the same judge that had removed two of her children from her custody.  Per the article she also criticized the judge and children’s guardian in eight posts made between August 30 and September 10 and invited 15 friends to comment.  For this she was charged with breaching the Administration of Justice Act 1960 for having revealed the confidential details of the proceeding, as well as the identities of the children and the guardian.  (Notably, the article did not even mention the woman’s name for fear of running afoul of the same law.)

Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that … they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out. Continue reading »

Dec 172011
 

The New York Times reports on the dismissal of charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who was being prosecuted under federal anti-stalking law (18 U.S.C §§ 2261A(2)(A)) for posts made about a religious leader on Twitter.  The decision analogized blogs and Twitter with public media available at the time of the drafting of the Bill of Rights:

Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one’s front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another’s bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor’s yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor’s Blog by simply turning on a computer.

Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1’s bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2’s bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist’s bulletin board showing up on the other’s. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.

The court noted that one does not have to walk over and look at another person’s bulletin board; nor
does one Blog or Twitter user have to see what is posted on another person’s Blog or Twitter
account, which made the medium very different than that of a telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and directed at another person. This distinction the court concluded was important for the First Amendment analysis, as the prosecution was over protected speech.

Dec 142011
 

The BBC reports that Danny Cook has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for a Facebook post.

The judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, said: “I would be failing in my public duty if I did not impose a substantial custodial sentence.”

The court heard that Cook set up the group page on 9 August and that it was immediately joined by 44 people.

The defence said the site was “an immature demonstration of some sick form of humour”.

The court heard the Facebook page was only accessible for half an hour.

Mr Justice Butterfield said: “This is a very serious offence committed in the context of riots which took place across the country.”

The sentence came after Cook admitted to having made the Facebook group page in question, called “Letz start a riot.”