Justin Bieber is getting special treatment in his DUI case. I know of no other arrestee held in custody at Miami Beach Police station on any given day of the week whose “peeing” in a cup for a drug test is in danger of being released as public video.
Normally when accusations of celebrities getting special treatment under the law come up, we’re all up in arms. And rightly so.
There appears to be considerably less outcry when a celebrity is getting a raw deal. It’s as if their fame acts as a red mist to a 24/7 media and the public, who then collude to waive basic standards of decency, privacy and humanity given to everyone else, in exchange for grubby details about a celebrity — and a buck.
Hot on the heels of last Thursday’s release by police of CCTV jail video showing Bieber’s pat down at Miami Beach police station shortly after his DUI arrest, yesterday TMZ reported law enforcement sources confirmed footage of the singer peeing into a urinal in his holding cell exists.
With relish, the gossip site linked its previously shabbily obtained footage of Justin’s equally shabby New York restaurant mop bucket moment, and quoted a source who has reportedly seen the new, unreleased jail video, saying:
“Justin is seen several times stumbling around while he was taking his tests. As if he had a problem with his balance…[it] also shows Justin taking his various tests and eventually taking a piss.”
The source went on, “The stumbling and going to the bathroom is obviously reason enough for his attorneys to request it be sealed… If I was trying to paint a picture that my client was innocent… I wouldn’t want a video of him stumbling around and looking out of it to go public either.”
On January 23, Bieber was arrested just after 4 am for suspected DUI in Miami Beach while driving a rented yellow Lamborghini along with friend, singer Khalil Sharieff, who drove a red Ferrari. Arresting officers described both as engaged in an illegal street drag race.
After a field sobriety test – which police claim Bieber failed, amid an allegedly F-bomb laden arrest and alleged admissions of consuming beer, taking pot and prescription medication – the pair were taken to Miami Beach police station for processing.
A subsequent toxicology report revealed the Canadian star had marijuana and Xanax in his system at the time of his arrest, so it’s hardly surprising he was stumbling around the station and needed to relieve himself.
No, the surprise is why Miami Beach police, or anyone for that matter, can justify releasing CCTV video of Bieber exposing an intimate part of his body to urinate, as remotely serving any kind of legitimate public interest.
People can, and frequently do, claim all sorts of things are in the public interest: X Factor USA, Porn, George Zimmerman’s will-he-won’t-he boxing bout. But it doesn’t mean they are.
Yet that’s what Scott Ponce – a Miami Herald attorney, and the news media collective that is currently challenging a motion by Bieber’s Miami legal team to seal further videos of the pop star at the Miami Beach police station – are arguing.
“There is no basis in the public-records law for this video tape to be withheld from the public, and it will be Mr. Bieber’s burden to somehow establish that this otherwise public record should be withheld,” Ponce told the Miami Herald.
In fact, as Bieber’s lawyers stated in their motion – which was filed the next day after the jail CCTV of the singer was released – Florida’s constitution and state law contains exemptions from disclosure of intimate, personal material in public records in certain circumstances — as has been done in cases across the US for years.
Under Florida’s constitution: Article 1, Section 23, Right to Privacy and Article 1, Section 24, Access to Public Records & Meetings, the right to privacy versus the public’s right to know details exemptions to public disclosure.
“Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein.”
Under state law: the 2010 Florida statutes, 119.15 Section 6 (b) 2, an exemption is allowed if it:
“Protects information of a sensitive personal nature concerning individuals, the release of which information would be defamatory to such individuals or cause unwarranted damage to the good name or reputation of such individuals or would jeopardize the safety of such individuals.”
On January 29, Bieber pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence, resisting arrest without violence, and driving without a valid license, in writing through a lawyer.
If prosecutors really need to shore up their intoxication evidence already clearly revealed by the singer’s toxicology report by showing a video of him haplessly stumbling around while he tries to complete tests; fair enough.
But what exactly is the public interest in seeing Bieber’s penis tittered over on news reports and the Internet, which is what will happen if the footage of him in various states of undress is released?
Kicker? We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if the defendant was female.
No-one asked to see Reese Witherspoon going to the toilet after she was arrested for Drunk and Disorderly Conduct last May.
Or for that matter: Michelle Rodriguez, Paris Hilton, Heather Locklear, Lindsay Lohan, Diana Ross, Mischa Barton, Vivica A. Ross, Nicole Richie, Amanda Bynes and Shannon Doherty when they were arrested for DUI’s.
So does this mean the privacy rights of males and females detained in police custody are to be treated differently under the law, contravening principles laid out in the International Bill of Human Rights which both the US and Canada signed up to?
Then again, no media requested CCTV footage of Reese’s husband, Jim Toth, in his holding cell when he was booked for DUI last May on the night his wife was arrested.
Or these celebrity males for their DUI’s: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Dick Cheney, Haley Joel Osment, Rip Torn, Gus Van Sant,Tim Allen, the late Steve McQueen, Edward Furlong, Jason Priestly, Ray Liotta, Dave Grohl, Glen Campbell, Kelsey Grammar and Oliver Stone.
Which means Bieber is getting screwed twice. First, because he’s hyper-famous. Second, because he’s male.
If all else fails Bieber’s attorneys could take this to the Supreme Court. On the grounds that the singer’s privacy rights were violated and he was not treated equally under the law.
Bottom line? Why should anyone in police custody be viewed in the most intimate, solitary activity a human being engages in? They’re not committing a crime at that moment and it is a demonstrably private thing.
Ultimately, if we’re saying urination and defecation are up for grabs as observable moments simply because an individual is in custody – before their charge has even been heard – we are essentially saying they are no longer afforded human rights once incarcerated and we have the right to treat them as we please.
Like animals in a zoo.
There’s not a reason that makes any kind of sense but dollar cents why millions around the world — media and public — need to see a 19-year-old peeing into a urinal in his holding cell.
It doesn’t further the DUI case. It furthers the lasting humiliation of a teenager for nothing more than commercially-motivated voyeurism, and no small amount of cruelty.