“I ain’t got no f#@king weapons,” “Why do you have to search me? What the f*** is this about?”
These are the so called “choice words” (as alleged by Miami Beach Police) spoken by international pop star Justin Bieber after he was stopped for drag racing in a Miami neighborhood. Officers were drawn to Bieber’s vehicle ( a canary yellow Lamborghini) at approximately 4 a.m. this morning when he raced with a Ferrari at speeds of around sixty mph in a residential neighborhood. Apparently, Bieber’s cohort blocked off the street to allow sufficient space for the relatively low speed race. One other known participant in the event is Sacramento rapper Khalil Amir Sharieff.
When officers made contact with Bieber, it was determined that he exhibited signs of intoxication due to his bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol on his breath and flushed skin. Aside from his borderline belligerent quotes above, Mr. Bieber failed to follow instructions by law enforcement which allegedly obstructed the investigation process. Officers stated that Bieber refused to keep his hands placed on the vehicle while his person was searched, and failed to respond appropriately to initial questioning by officers. Bieber then is said to have failed a field sobriety test. It is reported that Bieber was subsequently arrested for Driving Under the Influence, Obstruction of Justice (or resisting arrest), and Driving Without a License.
During the course of the investigation, Bieber supposedly made one of the biggest mistakes a person can an make when under investigation for a crime; he made incriminating statements to police officers. According to reports, Mr. Bieber admitted to police that he had been consuming prescription drugs, alcohol, and marijuana. If the factual recount is true, Bieber may have eliminated his protections under the 5th Amendment (and 6th Amendment) which allow a person to refrain from making statements that implicate them in criminal activities. The text of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The applicable text of the 5th Amendment (which is relevant during any police interrogation or investigation) means that a person accused of a crime has the right to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement which could be used against them to prove their guilt of a crime. The proper application of this amendment is a huge aspect of criminal law. Perhaps one of the most well known cases in criminal law or in the legal landscape in general, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), deals specifically with a defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights in this setting.
In Miranda, the defendant was arrested by police under suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping and rape of a young woman. Police interrogated the suspect for approximately two whole hours regarding the incident, and were able to obtain a confession from him which admitted the allegations. The problem arose once it was determined that the suspect was not advised of his right to remain silent and his right to speak with counsel prior to (and during) questioning. Once the trial began, the prosecution attempted to use the confession in court to prove that Mr. Miranda was guilty of the crime. Miranda’s lawyer objected to the admission of the evidence because he believed it was not voluntarily and freely given. The court ruled against the defendant and he was convicted.
Following the conviction, the case was appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, who agreed with the lower court’s decision. Finally, the case was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court who set the precedent that a confession is not valid under th Fifth Amendment (right against self incrimination) and the Sixth Amendment (right to an attorney) unless police obtain a knowing and voluntary waiver of those rights. Furthermore, the court set out standards that must be followed in order for police to comply with the constitutional rights of a defendant.
For police to validly obtain a confession from a defendant, it must be shown that the person in police custody was told of his or her right to remain silent in a clear and understandable manner, and that any statements made can be used against them. Also, police must inform suspects that they have the right to consult with a lawyer prior to interrogation, and may also have a lawyer present during the police interrogation. Police also have to tell a person that a lawyer can be appointed by the court if they are unable to afford the services of a lawyer.
The Supreme Court decision also advises police on how to handle situations where a person decides to exercise their constitutional rights. The case states that once a suspect states or communicates in any way that he/she decides not to talk with police, the interrogation must stop there. Also, if the person requests an attorney, police must not initiate interrogations until a lawyer is present to assist the suspect. Once the attorney is present, police must give the attorney and suspect time to confer about the case, and must allow the attorney to stay if additional questioning occurs.
Getting back to the case of Justin Bieber, it is uncertain whether he was “Mirandized” prior to the questioning by police. If it turns out he was not, it’s possible that his statements will not be allowed for use against him in subsequent court proceedings. Defense attorneys will generally attack an invalid confession through a motion to suppress hearing with the court. Whenever a confession is thrown out, the prosecution must rely on other evidence to prove their case in court. In the context of this case, the prosecution likely has blood alcohol evidence, blood draws showing drug use, and observations of Bieber’s behavior which can be used against him for the DUI. Officer observations, in car cameras and possibly witness statements can be used for the resisting arrest charge. And clearly, driving records from DMV to prove charges for driving without a license. Not to mention that other members of Bieber’s crew or independent witnesses can possibly make statements that can implicate him on any of the charges.
We don’t doubt that Bieber will have top notch legal representation to help him out in this situation. However, the scenario gives a perfect example for others in a similar situation when confronted by police during an interrogation. It is important to remember your constitutional rights and to exercise them in order to have the best shot at a successful outcome in your case. Even if you plan on getting an attorney, an attorney can only work with the facts that exist in the case once he or she is hired. Persons suspected of criminal activity should always exercise their right to remain silent and not speak with police until you have qualified legal help.
* Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. The content of this blog is not intended as legal advice. If you require legal assistance, contact an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The author, website owner, and law office associated with this post have no relation to Justin Bieber, or any other parties mentioned in the text. All of the factual circumstances described are assumed from news sources and have not been independently verified. This blog is intended as a general discussion of legal concepts based on scenarios discussed in current events.