By a Staff Writer
Earlier this year, we covered the arrest and subsequent criminal charges filed by the Miami Beach Police Department against Justin Bieber. This past Wednesday, it seems that Bieber’s Miami DUI woes have come to a not unpleasant end, at least not for Mr. Bieber and his lawyers. As reported by The L.A. Times, the pop sensation has managed to avoid a DUI conviction for speeding down a South Beach street in a rented Lamborghini.
So what exactly happened? In case you missed our earlier blog post, we’ll begin at the time of his arrest in January.
Justin Bieber was stopped by a Miami Beach Police Officer while drag racing in a residential neighborhood in South Beach. Mr. Bieber was driving a yellow Lamborghini and accused of illegally racing against a Ferrari driven by R&B singer and Bieber’s friend Khalil Amir Sharieff. The arrest report states that they were driving at approximately 55 to 60 mph in an area where the speed limit is 30 mph.
The arrest report also states that Bieber displayed signs of impairment at the traffic stop, which prompted the Miami Beach officer to place the teen heartthrob under arrest. Specifically, the arrest affidavit (available as a pdf here) states:
“I immediately smelled an odor of alcohol eminating(sic) from the drivers(sic) breath and bloodshot eyes. The driver had slow deliberate movements and a stupor look on his face. These are all indicators of an impaired driver.”
Bieber allegedly protested the arrest, requiring the officer to enlist assistance in taking Bieber into custody.
At the Miami Beach Police Department, Justin Bieber took alcohol breath tests, drug tests, and the battery of standardized field sobriety tests. According to the arrest affidavit, Mr. Bieber “did not perform to standards.” To top it all off, it turned out that Bieber’s driver’s license was expired.
Bieber appeared before a local judge, via video link, who set Bieber’s bail at $2,500. Mr. Bieber was charged with:
- Driving Under the Influence
- Resisting Arrest Without Violence
- Driving on an Expired License
In Florida, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 to $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. See Section 316.193(2)(a). Furthermore, since Bieber is underage, he is subject to a DUI with a mere 0.02 percent blood alcohol content (BAC).
Resisting arrest without violence, defined in Section 843.02 of the Florida Statutes, is a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months in jail. See Section 775.082(4)(a); see also Section 775.083(1)(d).
Lastly, Bieber’s third charge of driving on an expired license is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine. See 322.065.
So What Happened?
Bieber’s breath test yielded a BAC below the 0.02 limit for underage drivers. This alone would have been a major blow to the prosecution’s case. Although Florida’s DUI laws include impairment from non-alcohol substances, an over-the-limit BAC is typically integral to strong DUI prosecution. Despite the lack of a high BAC, Bieber did test positive for marijuana and Xanax. With drugs, however, it is more difficult to prove that a driver was impaired at the time of arrest because the metabolites that are detected by drug tests take much longer to exit the body than alcohol. Therefore, it is more difficult to prove when a driver was intoxicated, or under the influence of a drug.
In Bieber’s case, his charges were reduced to “careless driving” and resisting an officer without violence. As part of the plea bargain, Bieber has agreed to attend a 12-hour anger-management course. Moreover, he must watch a number of online videos that depict the tragic consequences of DUIs on real people. He will also have to pay $50,000 to a charity that benefits the victims of human trafficking, in addition to standard fines for all the offenses.
On the one hand, pleading guilty to these misdemeanor charges will only add to the pop-singer’s criminal record. A criminal record can have a profound negative impact on one’s life, and can have serious implications for one’s immigration status. On the other, Bieber’s lawyers were successful in negotiating with prosecutors to drop the most serious charge of driving under the influence. In addition, Bieber will not have to go to jail or submit himself to drug-testing in the future.
Notably, Justin Bieber wasn’t present for the resolution of his case. His lawyers appeared on his behalf in the Miami Beach Courthouse, as the judge made several stern statements scolding such short-sighted stunts by someone possessing such strong influence over scores of susceptible young supporters.
Ultimately, however, everyone makes mistakes. On top of that, this plea agreement does not seem to be the product of Bieber’s fame or clout, but rather the weakness of the prosecution’s case. One of the primary benefits of legal representation is the trained eye of an attorney who can spot weaknesses in the government’s case. The Law Office of Edward Tayter supports Justin Bieber, and we’re glad he was able to avoid a DUI conviction.