A Kentucky teen was sentenced to 48 hours in jail after causing a crash while driving drunk and posting an "LOL" comment about the accident on Facebook. A judge in Woodford County imposed the sentence on 18 year-old Paula Asher, who is still facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.
Local law enforcement officials say Asher was drunk when she T-boned another vehicle in July and then drove away. When she was arrested later the same night, her blood alcohol content was over the legal limit and police discovered two Xanax pills in her vehicle. Asher reportedly told the arresting officers that she didn't realize she had hit anything.
After she was formally charged, Asher posted the following sentence on Facebook: "My dumb (expletive) got a DUI and hit a car LOL." Of course, "LOL" is a commonly used internet acronym meaning "laugh out loud." According to LEX18 News, Asher's post was seen by parents of the teenagers who were in the car Asher struck. They reported Asher's comment to Woodford District Judge Mary Jane Phelps, who ordered Asher to delete her Facebook account immediately.
However, Asher didn't follow that order. When Judge Phelps learned that the Facebook account was still active, she charged Asher with contempt of court and ordered her to spend two days behind bars. Officials at Woodford County Circuit Court say that deactivating the Facebook account was a condition of Asher's release.
Asher says she didn't intend to be flippant about the accident, and that she has apologized to the victims and to Judge Phelps. "I didn't think LOL would put me in jail," she said. Asher appeared in court on September 10 told the judge the account had been disabled. She is scheduled to appear again on September 24.
Because of social media's growing role in daily life, it can impact car accident investigations and legal proceedings in numerous ways. After all, websites like Facebook and Twitter can provide specific, time-stamped details about user's activities. People write about what they're doing, where they're going, and how they're feeling - and some do so multiple times each day.
As a result, social media can be a useful tool for law enforcement officials as they conduct investigations. In fatal crashes (especially where distracted or impaired driving is suspected), social media accounts can help police determine what a user was doing in the hours leading up to (and following) the accident. This week, police officers in Minnesota used Facebook photos and tweets to identify, locate, and arrest a suspected thief who escaped during a high speed chase. And Virginia police recently used tweets sent by two college students to help establish the sequence of events leading up to a fatal train crash.
However, using social media can also have unwanted consequences, particularly if you're a car accident victim who's involved in a personal injury lawsuit. It's now common for defense attorneys and insurance companies to request access to social media accounts - and it's fairly easy to take a photograph or a post out of context and use it as evidence undermining an injury claim. For example, if an injury victim posts "I feel great!", an insurer could characterize the post as evidence that the victim's injuries aren't as serious he or she claims.
As car accident lawyers, we urge our clients to avoid using social media to share any information connected to a personal injury case, including photographs, videos, status updates about the progress of your lawsuit, and expressions of personal feelings about your accident (or the person who caused the accident).