Jessica Binkerd, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, probably never imagined that pictures taken from her MySpace website would one day help send her to jail. Regrettably, that is exactly what happened. On August 6, 2006, Binkerd was driving her co-worker, twenty-five-year-old Alex Baer, home from a party when she swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with another car. Unfortunately, Baer did not survive the accident. Binkerd’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. Binkerd was subsequently charged and convicted of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury. In 2007, a Santa Barbara superior court judge disregarded the probation department’s recommendation of less than a one year jail sentence, opting instead to impose a much harsher penalty of five years and four months in state prison. Despite pleas for leniency from the victim’s family, Judge Lodge ultimately decided that pictures posted on MySpace of Binkerd wearing an “I heart Patr–n” t-shirt and drinking with friends after the fatal accident indicated a lack of remorse that warranted a tougher sentence. Binkerd is not alone. In the last few years, several similar cases have resulted in longer sentences partially due to information taken from social networking sites being presented at the sentencing hearing.
Christina R. Weatherford,
Judicial Sentencing Discretion Post-Booker: Are Judges Getting a Distorted View Through the Lens of Social Networking Sites?,
Ga. St. U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://readingroom.law.gsu.edu/gsulr/vol27/iss3/5