Many people are now posting virtually anything on social media. It can really hurt a person's case.
Columbus, OH (PRWEB) December 23, 2013
A Powell man, Matthew Cordle, was facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide earlier this year when made an unusual move: He confessed to the crime in a dramatic video and posted it on YouTube. The video, called "I Killed a Man," went viral and has had more than 2 million views at this point. At trial, Cordle's attorneys said the video demonstrated remorse, and asked for a lenient sentence, saying that the highly publicized and widely watched online video would lead many more to take responsibility for their actions (Associated Press, "Matthew Cordle's lawyers ask for leniency," October 17, 2013).
The tactic did not work. Cordle was sentenced to six years out of a maximum of eight, despite having no prior record (Ohio v. Cordle, Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County, Case No. 13CR-4732). He was also sentenced to an additional six months for drunk driving, his license was revoked for life and he was fined $1,075.
"When you're facing criminal charges, it's not the time to assuage a guilty conscience," said Brian Joslyn, Columbus DUI lawyer. "Particularly for felony charges, like the ones in this case, the consequences are too severe."
An OVI-related aggravated vehicular homicide is a second degree felony for a first offense, per Ohio Revised Code § 2903.06. It is punishable by up to eight years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. It also requires that a license be suspended for life.
In the prosecution's sentencing memo to the court, in fact, the prosecutor actually cited the video as a reason to give a harsh sentence, writing that Cordle said he expected a long sentence and, therefore, he should get one. While not the maximum, a six-year sentence falls toward the greater end of that scope, and certainly does not reflect any leniency, Joslyn said.
"This is a fairly harsh punishment," he continued. "There is no indication, from this sentence, that the judge took into account the idea that his video helped people or that he should get credit for taking responsibility. If anything, this stunt may have lead to a harsher punishment."
Joslyn said the whole incident also serves as a reminder to those facing DUI charges or any type of criminal accusation: Do not post anything about the incident on social media, blogs or anywhere else.
"Many people are now posting virtually anything on social media," Joslyn said. "It can really hurt a person's case. As a DUI defense attorney, I can argue and get evidence like DUI tests thrown out, but if you tweet 'Got pulled over after six Jager shots, #YOLO,' it's going to make my job considerably more difficult."
Those facing potential DUI charges should refrain from posting anything at all on social media, blogs or elsewhere on the internet about the charge, the proceedings or the events leading up to the arrest, Joslyn said.
"You have a right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right on your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest accounts, as well as blogs and any other places where people share their thoughts on the internet," he said. "That includes any posts or comments proclaiming your innocence. Just stay silent and let your lawyer talk for you."
Brian Joslyn, of the Joslyn Law Firm, is a Columbus DUI defense lawyer who represents clients throughout Central Ohio on any OVI-related offense, including vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and other charges.