A Bolingbrook woman was issued a ticket for taking her dog to the dog park without a proper permit based upon a comment she made on Facebook. As an attorney, I have three main concerns with this. First, did the police legally find the information? Second, was there enough evidence to issue the ticket in the first place? Third, by extension, is this how police are conducting investigations for more serious crimes?
First, it appears the police found this comment on an open Facebook page. Whether the police were monitoring social media for illegal dog park activity is under contention, but no privacy rights appear to have been violated. Police can lie and pretend to be someone, for example, when they are on a child pornography sting on the Internet. But should the police be able to use someone else’s identity (ex: your Facebook friend) to see your personal information. Should the police then be able to use that information to find out where you’ve been, who you know, and what you have said? In every case, police conduct must be investigated to make sure that they are adhering to the law.
Second, the police did not have enough information to issue a ticket based on the Facebook post. There was no proof of who posted that comment. People frequently (with or without permission) post on other people’s Facebook pages and other social media. Additionally, the comment did not specifically say she had been violating the law; there were multiple interpretations of her comment. The police did not call her to investigate, they did not actually see her violating the law, and there were no other witnesses to say that she had violated the law. Anyone one of these actions would have given her comment weight and validity that she had broken the law and did deserve the ticket.
Third, the most troubling aspect is not that someone received a dog ticket that was then rescinded. Do the police sometimes not investigate enough before deciding that someone is guilty and arresting that person? What if the police arrested a person for murder based only upon a Facebook statement that was allegedly his? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to investigate by bringing him in for questioning, or to see if there were any evidence to support the claim of a murder? “I could just KILL him for doing that” written on a social media page does not always mean that a murder will occur. Police need to follow the law and their own department protocols to legitimately and thoroughly investigate a person’s guilt before an arrest, or in this case, a ticket.