April 21, 2014 By Wallin & Klarich

Many people find it exciting or even necessary to update their “friends” on their daily activities through social media outlets. Unfortunately, there can be dangerous consequences to these status updates, as one family in Fontana recently learned.

ABC News reports that the Cheatheam family began preparing for their upcoming Las Vegas trip like many of us do, by posting updates on their Facebook pages. They shared photos of their hotel and the city once they had arrived. Shortly thereafter, the daughter received a text from a so-called “friend” asking her how long she was going to be out of town. Robbery.jpg

With that knowledge, a group of alleged burglars reportedly made their move. While the family was enjoying their Las Vegas trip, 21-year-old Michael Batson, 32-year-old Phillip McKnight and 20-year-old Tyrone Gibson allegedly burglarized the family’s home. Police say that the suspects parked a U-haul truck in front of the Cheatheam home and loaded it up with their belongings, including televisions, artwork, beds and sofas.

Fortunately for this unassuming family, they were able to get their belongings back. According to police, an officer happened to be patrolling their neighborhood while the burglary was occurring. They spotted the three men moving their belongings into the U-haul and arrested them. Now Batson, McKnight and Gibson each face charges of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy.1

Punishment for Burglary and Possession of Stolen Property (Penal Code Sections 459 and 496)

California Penal Code Section 459 defines burglary as entering a room, structure or locked vehicle with the intent to steal something or commit a felony once inside.2There are two types of burglary: first-degree and second-degree.

The Cheatheam’s alleged burglars are likely to be charged with first-degree burglary because they illegally entered another person’s residence. This is a felony and is punishable by up to six years in state prison.

The suspects also face charges of possession of stolen property. Depending on their criminal history, this can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony under Penal Code 496.

If convicted of a misdemeanor for possession of stolen property the suspects can face up to one year in county jail. If convicted of a felony, they face up to three years in county jail.

Why You Need to be Careful What You Post on Social Media

The punishments that these suspects face are very severe, but their alleged crimes say a great deal about our lives and social media. The amount of information you share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites can greatly impact your safety. By exposing their location to their “friends,” the Cheatheam family was also giving potential criminals critical information.

While posting a picture on social media may seem innocent, it can let others know your whereabouts and leave your home in danger to such burglaries. It is important to know exactly who you are sharing such information with. You may think you know who all of your “friends” are on Facebook or other sites, but many of them may be complete strangers. Take the time to sort through your personal site and make sure you know who is seeing what you post.

As technology advances and information travels at faster speeds, we are still learning how to handle it. There are still many unanswered questions as to how we should treat social media and what is appropriate to share.

Should we impose more restrictions on social media sites so that potential criminals are not given opportunities to commit crimes? What information should we consider “appropriate” to share with the public? Wallin & Klarich would like your opinion on this topic.

1. [ http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/inland_empire&id=9482852]
2. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?file=458-464&group=00001-01000&section=pen]

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