Drinking, Driving, and Live-Streaming

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 05, 2017 | 0 Comments

In the past ten years, social media use has grown by leaps and bounds. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 65% of adults were using social media. This was a significant increase from 2005 when just 7% of adults were doing so. Some of the most popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Periscope. Among the many people using these platforms are law enforcement officers. Law enforcement can go to a suspect's social media page in order to gather evidence after the suspect has been arrested and charged with a crime. In addition, social media has been used by law enforcement to charge people with a crime after individuals have made the mistake of posting less than legal activities online.

Such is the case with one Florida woman, who live-streamed herself driving while intoxicated after going bar hopping. In early October of 2015, Whitney Beall of Lakeland, Florida was using Periscope to broadcast her night out in real-time. Beall continued her live-stream as she got into her car and drove towards her home. She apparently told the viewers watching her broadcast, "I am drunk on South Florida Avenue because I'm a drunk person." Concerned viewers sent her messages asking her to pull over before she hurt herself or someone else. Some viewers also contacted the Lakeland Police Department.

10 News, a local station, reported that the department didn't "provide officers with access to Periscope as an authorized software tool and they didn't have the ability to monitor her actions." But one police officer downloaded the app in order to be able to see Beall's live-stream and figure out where she was. Using local landmarks, the officers were able to locate her and pull her over. She failed the standard field sobriety tests that she was asked to perform, but refused to take a breath test. Beall was arrested and subsequently charged with driving under the influence.

Several months later, in February 2016, Beall reached a plea deal with prosecutors. For the DUI charge, she received a standard sentence given to first-time offenders and was able to avoid spending time in jail. Her sentence included: "12 months of probation, alcohol evaluation and treatment, a 10-day vehicle impound, six months driver's license suspension, as well as no alcohol and no bars." In addition to this, she received an enhanced penalty because of her Periscope broadcast. The Assistant State Attorney, Lori Winstead, stated that this was because Beall had "“publicly flaunting her disregard for the safety of the community." This enhanced sentenced included "150 hours of community service and 10 days of weekend work release."

If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence, you want a knowledgeable, competent, and experienced attorney on your side. Georgia DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson has been working as a DUI defense attorney for over twenty years. Contact his office today by calling (404) 816-4440 or online.

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Richard Lawson

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