Justin Bieber’s DUI Arrest May Not Stand up in Court
A criminal law analysis of the DUI case against Justin Bieber from veteran criminal attorney Darren D. Shull, Esquire of Jupiter, Fl.
In the State’s prosecution of pop star Justin Bieber’s DUI charge, the most serious charge Mr. Bieber has been arrested for, the evidence raises several issues or problems that occurred during his DUI arrest & the evidence in the case.
Justine Bieber was arrested on Jan 23rd, 2014 by the Miami Beach Police Department for the following charges:
- Resisting arrest without violence, A first Degree Misdemeanor Punishable by a maximum of one year in jail
- Driving under the influence (DUI) first Offense, first degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six Months in jail
- Driving with an expired license over four Months, second degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail
Unless there are egregious circumstances regarding an arrest for these charges, first time offenders rarely go to jail. Charges like these are generally resolved to probation with special conditions if the case can be successfully prosecuted. The expired license charge is generally dropped when someone gets there valid license again. The resisting an officer charge is a catch all charge for Police when dealing with a difficult or uncooperative person. Under the facts alleged by police of Justin Bieber’s behavior the resisting charge will likely not stand. Resisting is generally proven when someone physically resists an Officer while being placed under arrest by pulling away and running away from Law Enforcement or gives the police a false name and maintains the false name when background checks are performed.
In DUI arrests in Florida, a prosecutor called an assistant state attorney reviews the arresting officers police report and accompanying affidavits and decides whether to file formal charges by “information”. The filing of a charging document called a ”information” with the local clerk of court, usually means that a prosecutor has made a legal determination that DUI and any other charges can be proven “Beyond and to the Exclusion of Every Reasonable Doubt”. To get that point the prosecutor must look at two very important items surrounding the case: 1. Can the elements of the crime be proven? Meaning is there sufficient evidence to prove the crime charged and 2. Was the police investigation conducted properly and by constitutionally permissible means? In a DUI if a person who is driving a vehicle is stopped without probable cause for a traffic violation then the driving pattern must have been erratic to the extent that the driver may be impaired. If there is not a sufficient pattern of erratic driving or probable cause for a traffic infraction then the “stop” is termed a “bad or invalid stop”. This is important because although the evidence may be there to prosecute, that evidence could be suppressed by the court upon a Motion to Suppress the evidence by the defense attorney.
The first problem in the facts surrounding Mr. Bieber’s arrest as reported by TMZ.com, is that GPS navigation information stored in the vehicle that Mr. Bieber was driving indicates that Bieber was driving no faster than 27 miles an hour at the time he was spotted by the arresting Officers. The officers wrote in the police report that Bieber was exceeding the 30 MPH limit by doing 55 MPH to 65 MPH. http://www.tmz.com/2014/01/31/justin-bieber-gps-drag-racing/
Exceeding the speed limit gave the officers the probable cause for the stop of Mr. Bieber. It’s not indicated in the reports available that the police used any of their own laser or measuring devices; in fact a Miami beach police officer made a visual determination of the excessive speed. There is also no indication of erratic driving and there is not any description of the drag racing indicated by the officer in the report. The initial stop then of Justin Bieber is definitely vulnerable to a motion to suppress due to a invalid stop. The court hearing his case could throw out all of the evidence of the DUI investigation. If that happens, the State Prosecutors could either appeal the judges decision or drop all of the charges in the case.
If for some reason the initial stop of Mr. Bieber is valid then the evidence of impairment and intoxication to prove the elements of DUI must be sufficient to prove the charge. First, Mr. Bieber was offered a breath test to which he blew very low levels .014 & .011. These levels are far below the legal limit for DUI and far below .02 which is the legal limit for underage driving. After blowing such low levels it is standard for the arresting officer to then ask for a urine sample from the arrestee if they believe there is impairment. Therefore the State cannot prove impairment due to Bieber’s alcohol consumption.
The only way then that the State could prove a DUI is by using the preliminary toxicology report that analyzed Justin Bieber’s urine. The report shows Bieber had marijuana and Xanax in his system. However the preliminary toxicology report only shows the presence of the controlled substances, not how much he had in his system and whether he was “high” or feeling the intoxicating effects of those substances. Testing levels in the blood stream to prove impairment are only done for the saturation of alcohol. Proving impairment from controlled substances other than alcohol must be done by other means such as behavior, speech, balance and memory tests; Police use “field sobriety tasks” such as the finger to nose test or the alphabet test to show impairment to prove their case.
Mr. Beiber statements seems to indicate he had smoked marijuana that day and had taken Xanax at sometime but without measurable levels its difficult to prove DUI impairment just from the presence of these substances.
The State of Florida’s DUI case against Justin Bieber seems weak at best and could be thrown out if the evidence is Suppressed by a motion from the defense Attorney. Again even if the case survives a Motion the evidence of intoxication and impairment seems to be in the eye of the beholder because it can’t be proven solely by scientific means.