If you heard many of the initial reports about the recent Miami Beach arrest of Justin Bieber, you would have thought that the case against him was a slam dunk for the prosecution. Well, it’s not. However, it’s also not is a slam dunk for the defense, as many are starting to report. My assessment, based upon the available reports of the facts and circumstances of the night in question is that Bieber may still be convicted of DUI.
First, it’s important to clear up a number of the erroneously reported facts. Many media outlets initially reported that he was charged with drag racing. While Officer Media did write in the arrest form that Officer Cosner observed two Lamborginis drag racing, with one being driven by Bieber, he wasn’t actually charged with that criminal act. Additionally, many stations reported that Bieber’s blood alcohol content at the time of driving was a .04. If accurate, that would mean that Bieber was double the legal limit for someone under twenty-one years of age, which in Florida is a mere .02. (For those over twenty-one, the legal limit is .08) In reality, we learned at some point after the drama of his arrest, that he only blew a .014 into the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath machine. That would be consistent with one drink, certainly not sufficient to prove that he was impaired due to alcohol consumption.
So with a mere .014 reading, many are asking, “Then how the heck can he be convicted of DUI?” Here’s the analysis. First, it’s important to understand what happened immediately after he provided the low breath sample. The cops involved determined that the level of impairment they observed with Bieber was inconsistent with his low reading. In other words, they believed that Bieber must have been impaired due to something else other than alcohol. Naturally, they suspected drugs. What bolstered their suspicion was that Bieber allegedly admitted at the arrest scene that he had been recently smoking marijuana and also, was taking medication, albeit prescribed. Furthermore, his demeanor and actions both at the scene and the station house served to support their theory. As a result, they did what they always do in a DUI investigation after either a .000 breath reading and/or a low reading, they asked for a urine sample. Allegedly, Bieber provided one. This case hinges, in large part, based upon what toxicologists find in his urine. If marijuana and/or any other controlled substance is found, prosecutors may be able to successfully prosecute him on the theory that he was impaired due to a controlled substance.
“Well that’s unfair!”, many would argue. (and as I often do in court). THC, the ingredient in marijuana, can be found in someone’s system for weeks after being ingested. The same argument can be made for other substances that may show up in Bieber’s urine. The response to that is, “DRE.” That stands for “Drug Recognition Expert.” In this case, and others like it, cops will bring in a DRE to analyze the DUI suspect and note physical observations. Additionally, they will also have the suspect perform a series of physical tasks and exercises, all allegedly geared towards determining if the individual is impaired due to a controlled substance. They allegedly did that type of screening on Bieber. I expect to see in the reports that along with the traditional “roadside tests,” they did things like: Checked his pupil’s in both room light and darkness to determine its size; Measured his blood pressure and temperature several times throughout the examination; Tested his eyes for “convergence” etc. Prosecutors will use the results of those unique tests along with other observations of the Drug Recognition Expert to prove that Bieber was actively impaired at the time of driving as a result of a specific substance. Like many of the similar cases I’ve handled either as a prosecutor and/or defense attorney, I suspect the screener will opine that Bieber was impaired due to one of the following substances: “A CNS Stimulant”; “Cannabis”; “CNS Depressant”; “Inhalant”; “Hallucinogen”; “Dissociative Anesthetic etc.
There are a lot of “Yeah buts” that will be raised by many when analyzing this case. “Yeah but,” the officer is lying when he alleges that while drag racing, Bieber “attained an approximate speed of about 55-60 mph.” To support their “Yeah but,” they will argue that Bieber’s GPS allegedly shows that he never went faster than 30 mph. I have no idea if that report, which I heard announced on several media outlets, is true. If so, that would significantly hurt the State’s case. Any time the defense can undermine the credibility of a lead officer, even on collateral matters, they can raise questions concerning the reliability of all the other alleged testimonial evidence. “Yeah but,” that Drug Recognition Expert stuff is nothing short of voodoo and/or junk science, some “Beliebers” and others may contend. The response is, “it depends.” I would need to know exactly what was done, how it was carried out, and what conclusions were made, to determine how reliable the exam was. If this case is fought in court, expect to see defense experts criticize the exam on every level. Finally, I’m also hearing, “Yeah but,” we don’t know if anything was in Bieber’s urine. The answer to that is, “True.” I would encourage all to keep an open mind and not to presume or believe anything until all the evidence is in.
What bodes well for him is the fact that he’s well represented and also, the fact that rarely do all the allegations written in police reports prove to be accurate, especially in DUI cases. However, if the evidence comes out the way I have speculated, the prosecution can still legally secure a conviction for DUI, in spite of his very low breath alcohol reading.