Whether it’s a charge of driving while intoxicated, drug DUI or any number of other offenses, once in the courtroom, DWI defendants have an obligation to themselves to play by the rules, even if they think technology is one step ahead of the legal process. I’m speaking most recently of the Fort Lee man who “won” himself at least 33 days in a Pennsylvania jail, not from the DWI arrest for which he was being tried, but for “tweeting” his thoughts about that very same trial while still in court!
The presiding judge was alerted to the defendant’s social networking transmissions by the arresting officer who became aware of the defendant’s “tweets.” Scott Ruzal, a Penn State student up on charges of DWI and resisting arrest, was awaiting an eventual guilty verdict last March when he started to “tweet” his mind on the subject of his impending conviction.
According to reports, Penn State police officer, Matthew Massaro, who arrested the 20-year-old in 2008, said the student wrote the following on his Twitter account: “When all else fails, try ignorance. I watched four cops lie on a witness stand today and I didn’t say a word.”
The Fort Lee resident was charged in April 2008 after police spotted him driving erratically. He was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.280 percent after a refusing to voluntarily submit to a portable breathalyzer and a blood test. Police said Ruzal kicked and hit them, refused to cooperate and had to be restrained on the East Parking Deck on campus.
Last week, at his sentencing hearing, prosecutor Karen Kuebler asked Grine to sentence Ruzal to more than a month in jail for repeatedly disrespecting law enforcement. Ruzal apologized for his actions last year, but defended his Twitter postings. “That wasn’t anything I said out of disrespect of the court,” Ruzal said. “It was just an expression of a particular sentiment that I was feeling at the time.”
While the man’s defense attorney said he never saw his client Twitter, this should be a lesson for all future DWI defendants. As a New Jersey DWI Attorney, I do as much as I can to provide my clients with a quality legal defense. But clients, for their own good, need to maintain some amount of restraint during the trial to avoid any unanticipated penalties such as this man received.
Tweeting in court nets jail term, CentreDaily.com, May 8, 2009