California Town to Post DUI Names on Facebook?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 22, 2010 8:49 AM

Let the public shaming continue. We have noted several instances of judges using public shaming as a way to punish those convicted of various crimes. One of the most startling was the thief in Texas sentenced to stand outside the local mall holding a sign detailing his crimes, every weekend, for six years. Our country used to use the public stockade to shame criminals. Now it's billboards, police websites and everyone's favorite: Facebook.

The town of Huntington Beach is struggling with a major drunk driving problem. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2009 there were 1,687 drunk-driving arrests;one of the highest rates for a city that size in California. The police are looking to get tough and crack down, but not just with the usual road-block/checkpoint tools.

Councilman Devin Dwyer has suggested the police consider posting the names of people arrested for drunk driving on the city's Facebook page, because the local newspaper has stopped publishing the listings, reports The Times. "I didn't think public shaming for driving under the influence was such a bad idea," Dwyer told The Times. "I would use any tool necessary to bring down the numbers of drunk drivers."

However, there is a small difference in the Huntington Beach proposal to post the DUI names on Facebook than in some of the other public shaming stories that have been discussed. In this case, the town is considering printing names of those only suspected of drunk driving, no convictions have yet been made. TechPresident.com spotted this issue as well when it examined the backstory on why the paper had stopped publishing the names. The paper explained in an editorial, "The people on the list have been arrested but not convicted of anything. If any of them is later cleared of the offense, his or her name will still be readily available on a Google search, which poses a problem for background checks."

Not to mention the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing.

According to The Times, Lt. Russell Reinhart of the Huntington Beach Police Dept. is going to have city attorney Jennifer McGrath review the whole proposal to post the DUI names on Facebook, just to ensure it is kosher, legally speaking. 

Problem is, McGrath could find herself at the top of the list. Ms. McGrath pleaded guilty to a DUI after being stopped in 2005 for driving on the wrong side of Main Street, not far from City Hall. What do you think she's gonna say?

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