Police are investigating a Facebook Live video in which a Rhode Island driver intermittently records himself weaving in and out of traffic and his speedometer measuring speeds of up to 116 miles per hour before he loses control of his vehicle and crashes into a garbage truck and cement barrier. 20 year old driver Onasi Olio-Rojas was seriously injured in the crash, but the truck driver sustained no injuries.
The video in question, which was posted to Rojas' Facebook page, runs almost two full minutes. In it, he holds the phone he uses to record the video in his right hand. He films himself as he begins to speed up, changing lanes erratically and passing multiple vehicles at high speeds. Eventually, he hits a garbage truck which was entering the freeway at the time, swerves across three lanes of traffic, and hits the barrier.
Traffic was stalled on Route 6 for two hours because rescue workers were required to extricate Rojas from the vehicle before he could be transported to a local hospital. Rojas' license was reportedly suspended at the time of the incident, and Washington state law currently prohibits the use of handheld cellphones while driving.
State police in Rhode Island will use an official copy of the video as evidence in court if they can obtain it from Facebook. Captain John Allen asserts, “I mean, the video makes the case. The independent witnesses certainly help, but nothing beats actually watching it on the video.”
It has become common practice for social media documentation to be used as evidence in court. In Washington, the definition of “Writings and Recordings,” which can be used as evidence, is anything which consists “of letters, words, sounds, or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, magnetic impulse, mechanical or electronic recording, or other form of data compilation.” This includes printouts of any internet source, including social media, which are considered originals if they readable and “shown to reflect the data accurately.”
In fact, courts have precedents for requiring people to provide their social media history, even if they have deleted or suspended their account. For example, in 2015, a plaintiff in a workplace injury suit was forced to turn over the 4000 pages of his deactivated Facebook account when he failed to provide them after being asked. He had deactivated the account when his employer requested access to it.
According to a 2013 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 80 percent of 500 surveyed law enforcement agencies used social media evidence in criminal investigations. More and more published cases concern social media evidence, and, given the popularity of online networking, this trend is likely to continue.If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, it is vital to enlist the help of an attorney who understands your rights in court and can help you achieve the best outcome for your case, regardless of the circumstances of your arrest. Please do not hesitate to call the Seattle Law Office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.