Get yourself a DUI and your mugshot may get some exposure on Facebook. That is, if you get caught in New Jersey’s by Evesham Township’s police, ed which has begun posting mugshots of arrested of people, convicted or not, on its Facebook page. Now we do know that if you get arrested, your privacy is pretty much limited to the brand of your underpants due to services like Checkpeople.com having full records of all arrests/etc, but the local police department has started a controversy and may find itself in hot waters.
Imagine the scenario. You get arrested for whatever reason, justified or not, but your mugshot gets a permanent feature on Facebook, in addition the reporting in the traditional public police report that exposes your name and address. Sort of a social blotter. How would you react?
I am not kidding. The Evesham Township police department has begun posting mugshots of those that have been arrested. One of the recent entries a 52-year old white male who was arrested in a Marlton, NJ residence because of charges of auto theft. Or a 37-year old Hispanic male who is believed to have stolen $50,000 in cash from a business. But it is not just theft that gets you on Facebook. Fighting in a street that reveals outstanding warrants may get your personal story and a not so flattering picture on the social network. A drunk driving charge will get you Facebook fame as well. The local population seems to enjoy the public exposure. “Nice Job!”, “Good Work!”, “Put her in the slammer!” are the contributions of Evesham Township residents. The page has more than 4700 followers.
The problem with those posts is that people get branded with the reputation of a criminal, even if they are not convicted. Vincent O’Hearn, for example, was arrested for “inhaling nitrous oxide” and later released. His mugshot still graces the Facebook page of the police department. Several years ago, our local police department arrested a man for breaking off a branch from a public tree. I wonder if taking a branch from a tree in Evesham Township is enough to get a Facebook mugshot?
Of course, there are questions whether the PD can post those pictures. CourierPostOnline reports that the law may not be in favor of the police officers. Bernard Bell, Rutgers University law professor, told the newspaper that the pictures could be considered a privacy violation. “He sees little law enforcement purpose in allowing the general public to view and comment on a suspect who has yet to be convicted,” the newspaper wrote.