It Could Happen to You Too.

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Introducing New Laws

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

"Innocent until proven Guilty DOES NOT exist on the Internet."

I can say with honesty that I am one of the most kind and empathetic individual's a person could ever meet.  A co-worker said to me one day, "Sherry, do you have a mean bone in your body at all?" My answer to that was, "Oh yes....if someone messes with my kids!"  In fact, there are two things that will put me in FIGHT mode and I become like a soldier in battle.  ONE, if someone harms a member of my family, especially my children, and TWO, if someone touches my bank account.  As a result of what happened on July 26, 2014, I have been in fight mode ever since.  My family's reputation was harmed and it also created financial hardship when we had to borrow money from family members and pull money from our retirement account to fight these accusations.  If I could have reached through the computer screen at that time, I would have pulled out every strand of hair from the heads of each and every person responsible.  The anger I felt over this incident began to eat away at my soul.  Once I realized that being angry wasn’t accomplishing anything or making me feel any better about the situation, that's when I made the decision to take that anger and turn it into something positive by using this unpleasant experience to help others.  So it is my personal goal to launch a campaign to introduce new laws in Georgia that will help protect the privacy of the accused as long as a pending court case exists.  Personally, I feel it should be illegal to post information online about anyone who has been arrested until that person has been found guilty in a court of law.  Choosing to publicly make comments about an individual while the case is still pending in court not only violates a person's right to privacy, it also violates a person's right to a fair trial.  Shouldn't we all be given the right to protect our privacy, especially online?  Is it really fair to print information that leads to the spread of gossip, ultimately labeling a person guilty until proven innocent?  Why do some police officers believe it's acceptable to gossip about pending court cases on social media?  This not only jeopardizes a person's right to a fair trial, it could also potentially jeopardize the outcome of the entire case, thereby preventing justice from being served on behalf of victims in cases where a crime actually did occur.  Everyone has a Constitutional Right to have fair trial in the court of law, by an impartial tribunal, uninfluenced by social media.

 

As it currently stands, the release of mugshots falls under the state's "Open Records Act," which allows the immediate release of information pertaining to an arrest.  Mugshots alone are enough to destroy the lives of the accused, but when social media gossip is thrown into the mix, the damage it can cause is irreversible.  This is clearly a contentious subject that carries both pros and cons.  It is not my intention to fight for changes that could potentially take away our First Amendment Rights, but I would like to see some type of compromise taken into consideration, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the Internet.  And about mugshots....in a perfect world, my suggestion would be to treat those individuals in the same manner as minors who have been charged with a crime are treated; by protecting their identity until the case has been tried in court.  That way, the press can still print the story without causing harm to a person’s reputation.  What's more, since social media attacks can easily escalate into online bullying and harassment, it is also my hope that someday false Internet attacks are treated as a criminal act.  In the meantime, we should all encourage each other to act responsibly when expressing our opinion online.  Most importantly, law enforcement officers should conduct themselves as positive role models by refraining to make comments on social media when it involves a pending court case. 

Results of opinion poll as of April 17, 2015

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"As Arrest Records Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a Lifetime"

August 18, 2014

By Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller

Important tips to remember if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

First and foremost, prevention is the best method.  If you ever leave personal property behind at a previous residence, ALWAYS ask an officer to accompany you when you go back to retrieve it.  This is for your own protection.  Don't assume that you can trust everyone, even if you've known them your entire life.
Make a mental note of your surroundings, even if it's something that may seem unimportant at the time.
Document, document, document anything and everything you can remember.  I put my skilled talent of being a detailed-oriented person to use and began documenting EVERYTHING immediately after this incident occurred, and I continued to document important facts as aspects related to this arrest progressed.  My notes later helped create this website.    
Compile a list of possible witnesses.
Obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible and review for any discrepancies.  Police officers do make mistakes, whether some want to admit it or not.
Obtain a copy of the police audio tape if one is available.
Educate yourself and know your rights.

If you believe your Constitutional Rights, civil rights, or dignity has been violated, please speak out.  Report the incident to that individual's superior.  If that goes nowhere, report it to the next level of authority and so on.  I took my complaint all the way to the US Department of Justice and got a response!  Don't let it go!  I will help you!  In fact, I encourage anyone who’s had an unpleasant experience with law enforcement to tell me your story and allow me to write a letter to the appropriate officials on your behalf.  

FOR YOUR OWN PROTECTION, I would highly recommend that everyone invest in  a dash cam.  I purchased the DashCam Pro.  However, I haven't been impressed with this specific brand since it stopped working within 3 months of purchase, so I am currently on the lookout for a better device.  My only regret is not knowing that these devices existed prior to July 26, 2014.
Consult an attorney who will fight for you before taking any action.

It doesn't take a genius to recognize that there's something seriously wrong with this picture.

In the beginning, I had a fiery mission to introduce a bill that would protect the identity of those who have been arrested by banning the release of their names and mugshots until they are convicted or have plead guilty in a court of law.  Then over time, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle.  I never comprehended how difficult it would be to win over the understanding and compassion of others.  After being hurt by so many people I turned to for help and support, it became obvious that unless a person has gone through what my family has gone through, they would never truly understand.  So, utilizing the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I found a different approach that I hope will achieve similar results.

 

For those who can, I ask that you please contact your local state law makers and ask that a bill be introduced that would protect the Constitutional Rights of the accused by enforcing training on the proper use of social media for all law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Georgia.  I have attempted to make it as easy as possible by formatting a letter shown below so that you can type your name on the signature line, save it on your computer, and attach it in an email using the email link provided.  And for those who want to help, but don't want to go as far as asking for a change in legislation, there are other things you can do that could possibly disrupt the hard copy distribution of mugshots, which is in my opinion, nothing more than a tabloid of garbage.  Consider speaking directly to those who distribute the publications in their stores and tell them that you don't want this type of material in your community.  For example, if you stop by a specific store or gas station on a regular basis for coffee and gas and know the people who work there, they will most likely listen and adhere to your concerns.  If retailers stop stocking these publications, it will hopefully diminish circulation and drive down the value of ad space.  This will cause profits to subside, which will eventually cause the tabloids to disappear.  You can also contact your local police and sheriff departments and ask that they enforce internal policies refraining officers from participating in facebook gossip by banning them from making comments on social media regarding arrest records that have been released to the public.

 

I realize that this issue is controversial and some people will have mixed feelings about it, but please understand that no one is exempt from being falsely accused and slandered.  The names of both my husband and son have been degraded over something that never even happened.  The only way to prevent another injustice such as this from occurring is to conform the laws to fit TODAY'S society.  What happened to my family could happen to you too.

Everyone deserves the right to privacy.

The release of mugshots before a conviction, combined with facebook gossip is not only damaging, it’s an invasion of privacy.  Some things cannot be unseen or unheard.

Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial.

Releasing information to the public about an arrest, including a person's name and mugshot, can trigger online gossip about the case, thereby jeopardizing a person's right to a fair trial.

Everyone deserves the right to be protected from Social Media attacks.

Thanks to social media, online gossip about an arrest labels a person "Guilty until proven Innocent," and online gossip can quickly escalate into online bullying.


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