We live in a digital era where everything, literally everything, can get posted for the world to see. Social media outlets like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter can let anyone know where you live and work, who you’re associated with, and what you’re doing at any given moment. There are, however, somethings that we don’t want the world to know about and that we deliberately withhold from social media, like a DUI conviction.
Although criminal convictions are public record, one would not expect anyone in the world to have access to that information without taking the trouble to actually find it. And why would they?
Well now in New Mexico, they won’t have to. Thanks to the ever hyper-vigilant organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), information on a person’s DUI conviction, sentence, and judges whom they believe are too lenient on the DUI offenders will be posted on the social media website Twitter for all of the world to see.
New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez announced earlier this month that the state will pay MADD staffers to attend DUI hearings and publicize the information in tweets. How much money, you might ask. MADD was granted a whopping $800,000 contract for this program of public shaming.
“Too many lives have been shattered by drunk drivers, and too often our justice system fails our families by going easy on the criminals,” Martinez said at a news conference in Albuquerque.
The number of people killed in drunk driving related accidents last year in New Mexico decreased by 28 percent, marking a 36-year low in a state that has long struggled with high DUI rates, officials said last month.
New Mexico follows several municipalities that have taken to social media to shame DUI offenders. In March, I wrote a post on the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office in Chesterfield, Virginia, who took to posting the mugshots of people who had been arrested for driving under the influence.
If you ask me, there are a number of very serious problems with this.
The first issue I have is what many have express about this program. Couldn’t New Mexico’s money be better spent elsewhere?
Second, there is the possibility that a program such as this could violate the privacy rights of those whose information is being posted. I can’t say one way or another without doing more legal research into the issue. Sure seems like an invasion of privacy though.
What’s more, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that posting this information will lead to retaliation by the public. It goes without saying that people have very strong feelings about people who have been convicted of DUI. Those feelings, if you ask me, have led to a disproportionate villainization and stigmatization of those who have been convicted of drunk driving. New Mexico could possibly be putting these people at risk of harm with this program.
Lastly, this program is likely to place political pressure on judges to give harsher punishments for DUI convictions when the facts of the case may not warrant it. It is within the judge’s authority to determine the punishment for a DUI conviction. It’s their job.
Democratic state Representative Antionio “Moe” Maestas correctly made the comparison that “[b]laming a judge for not enough conviction rates is like blaming [a baseball] umpire for not enough strikeouts.”