Social media and DUI arrests: What every Virginia driver should know

After DUI arrests, law enforcement may use people’s social media posts as evidence during their trials to prove they had consumed alcoholic beverages.

People throughout Virginia use social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As of June 30, 2015, Facebook reported having more than 1.3 billion active monthly users. These sites generally offer people the opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences with their friends, family and acquaintances. For those who have been charged with DUI, however, these sites may be used as evidence during their criminal trials. Therefore, it is important for people to understand how social media could affect their DUI cases.

Proof and timelines

Often, people post statuses and photos on their social media accounts. Sometimes, these posts include time and location stamps. CNN points out that authorities may use anything that people post online as evidence. As such, law enforcement may be able to use these posts to establish a timeline of a person's activities prior to his or her arrest. They may also be used to prove that a person had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to his or her arrest.

For example, a man goes out with friends and is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on his way home. While he was out, he and his friends posted statuses about their activities and what they are drinking to their social media accounts. They also shared pictures of them holding and consuming alcoholic beverages. The authorities could use these posts to determine about how long the man had been out drinking.

Private settings and privacy

Many people have their privacy settings set at the highest level. As a result, they often feel safe discussing their activities, and sharing details about their DUI arrests on their social media accounts. Private settings do not always guarantee that the authorities will not have access to potentially incriminating posts and photos. Just because people have their settings on private does not mean that their friends do. Therefore, law enforcement may be able to see posts that those they are investigating are tagged in.

After a drunk driving arrest, people may go into their social media accounts and delete posts that may have a negative impact on their cases. According to CNN, however, the authorities can subpoena social media companies to obtain deleted content. Not only can those posts then be used as evidence, so too could the user's attempt to delete them.

Working with an attorney

The penalties people face when convicted of DUI in Virginia are serious and could have a significant impact on their futures. As such, it may be of benefit for those who have been charged with drunk driving to obtain legal counsel. An attorney may help them to understand their rights, as well as to establish a defense against the charges they are facing.