It is unusual for police to get a tip from the virtual world about a drunk driver. It’s usually the other way around. But in Florida today, a woman was booked with drunk driving using the live-streaming app Periscope.
The police in Lakeland, Florida, received calls from people who were viewing a woman broadcasting herself while driving drunk. Even with the tips, it took some old fashioned police know -how and investigating to find the woman and finally arrest and charge her.
This was truly a virtual reality story. First the young woman, identified by police as Whitney Marie Beall, 23, began inviting people to follow her on her bar-hopping rounds in downtown Lakeland, said reports. Following her invitation on Periscope, two viewers urged her, via text message, to pull over in her car before she had an accident, killing herself and someone else.
One caller told police he was watching the woman drive in the north Lakeland area. The woman reported at that time she was drunk and lost and had a flat tire. Unfortunately, the feed was so patchy and irregular the caller was unable to tell the police what kind of car the woman was driving.
The live stream was published by WFTV in Orlando, Florida and in it, Ms. Beall continually said she was drunk and asked viewers for directions, saying repeatedly, “So where am I now, people?” There were at least 57 people watching.
The police station did not have access to Periscope in their department but one officer had a personal account. The officers used this to study and survey the landscape, spotting familiar sites in an effort to pin the driver down. And they did – a street called Carpenter’s Way.
The officers found and pulled her over. Her 2015 Toyota Corolla, which already had a right flat front tire, ran into a curb. Ms. Beal failed a sobriety test and was charged with drunken driving.
Florida news television channel WFLA, located in the Tampa Bay area, found Ms. Beall at her home but she did not wish to comment. The station’s reporter, Holly Bounds, said that Ms. Beall “hung her head down and said this was a big mistake. And she is learning a lesson from it all.”
The station also reported that Ms. Beall’s lawyer, Lee Cohen, said in his statement that he would enter a not guilty plea on her behalf.
Don’t Drink, Drive & Periscope!
Even hiring one of Florida’s largest PR firms, Zimmerman Agency wont help when there’s video proving the crime.