Ed. note: Please welcome Jenny M. Brandt to our pages. Jenny will be covering celebrities and the law. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.
Justin Bieber seemed to be on a rampage of self-destruction — first he allegedly egged his neighbor in a move that supposedly incurred thousands of dollars in damages, then police reportedly found drugs in his home, followed by his arrest in Florida for a DUI and drag racing, culminating in an arrest in Toronto for some kind of alleged altercation with a limo driver. Oh, and let’s not forget yesterday’s news that he reportedly hot-boxed a private jet, causing the pilots to wear masks.
But is Bieber getting a bad rap? Is this a case of Michael Jackson criminality — he becomes a target for arrests simply because others have made claims against him?
At least the Florida charges have shown there is a significant bias against Bieber. Driving while Bieber is what it shall be called. Thankfully for Bieber, it looks like he has a very strong motion to suppress. It is hornbook law that the police needed reasonable suspicion that Bieber was committing a criminal offense to temporarily detain him. They also needed probable cause to arrest him. Here, facts have emerged to suggest they had neither.
According to the police report, officers pulled Bieber over because he was reportedly speeding and racing another car. Luckily for Bieber, his car’s GPS records his speed. (Ah, the benefits of being rich and privileged.) TMZ reports that his speed when he was supposedly drag racing was only 27 mph, in a zone with a speed limit of 30 mph. Case closed. If he can affirmatively prove that he was not speeding, then the officer’s statement under penalty of perjury is invalidated or seriously called into question, and there was no reasonable suspicion to detain him. Without that, the fruit of the lovely poisonous tree, and everything from the officer’s observations of Bieber that formed the basis of the alleged resisting arrest charge, to their discovery of his expired license, to whatever tests were performed to find drugs in his system, would be suppressed. Without any evidence, the DA would have to dismiss.
Even if he was speeding, officers would be hard pressed to establish he was impaired from alcohol or above the legal limit to justify an arrest. Though the police report reveals that officers believed Bieber’s breath emanated “an odor of alcohol” and that Bieber had “bloodshot eyes” with a “stupor look on his face,” the truth is that his blood alcohol from a chemical test revealed a 0.014. So either there is something seriously wrong with the test or the officer was clearly exaggerating in his report. In such a case, the test results could be used to impeach the officer’s testimony that Bieber appeared intoxicated. If successfully impeached, there would be no probable cause for arrest, and the toxicology test that reportedly revealed marijuana and Xanax in Bieber’s system would be suppressed. There would also be proof problems for the resisting arrest count because if police were illegally arresting Bieber, then he likely had the right to resist. The discovery of Bieber’s expired license could have independently justified an arrest, but it remains unclear if officers discovered this before or after arresting Bieber — it is almost written as an afterthought in the report.
Poor Bieber. Worst case scenario: he threw some eggs at a pesky neighbor’s house in a juvenile move and he hit a limo driver. His arrest and the prosecution in Florida, though, is bunk. Only time will tell if he will continue to be punished for driving while Bieber.
Jenny M. Brandt is a criminal defense and appellate attorney in the Bay Area, California. She loves all things criminal law, celebrity gossip, and corgis, and has a blog at www.juicejusticeandcorgis.com. She graduated from UCLA (’05) and UCLA School of Law (’09) with a concentration in Critical Race Studies.