FLORIDA, USA – A Miami judge ruled on Tuesday that the video images of a partially-clothed Justin Bieber while the pop singer was in police custody in Florida can be released in media, but only after blocking out his genitals.
The said video clips included Bieber providing a urine sample for a drug test. The drug test asked for the pop singer was done following his arrest by police in Miami Beach in January on a charge of driving under the influence.
Bieber’s lawyers had argued that the police surveillance video showing him urinating was inappropriate and it should be withheld to protect the Canadian singer’s privacy.
Miami-Dade County Court Judge William Altfield said in a written ruling: “The Court finds that there exists a right to privacy as it relates to the exposure and dissemination of the Defendant’s genitalia.”
Altfield also said in a court hearing on the order, that despite the public’s right to full disclosure, “Bieber has not lost his expectation of dignity.”
He added that while people in police custody have less expectation of privacy, they “are not like animals in a zoo to be filmed and photographed at will by the public or media.”
The judge emphasized that what was at stake was the public access to evidence in court cases, and not the media’s First Amendment right to free speech under the US Constitution.
Roy Black, Bieber’s Miami attorney said: “We want to issue our thanks to the court for spending so much time analyzing this issue … and finding that even Mr. Bieber has a right to privacy.”
Last January 23, Bieber was caught drag racing and was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest and using an expired license. Bieber pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Prosecutors said that tests confirms that besides a small amount of alcohol, the pop singer also had marijuana and prescription medication for anxiety in his system at the time of his arrest,
Later after Bieber’s arrest in Miami, lawyers form different media including the Miami Herald, CBS, the Associated Press and others filed motions demanding all the video be released under Florida’s broad public records law.
It is noted that under Florida law, all evidence including photos and videos became public record once they are handed to the defense.
The judge decided that out of five clips available, three were to be released immediately without being altered while the other two would be withheld until technicians can blur or hide Bieber’s genitals.
“Some type of technological technique will be used to shade or blacken out that area which would depict the objectionable images,” he added.
According to the ruling, even though none of the clips clearly shows Bieber urinating, in one clip the partition fails to fully block the camera view after he completed giving the sample, “thereby revealing an image of the defendant’s genitalia.”
A second clip was also deemed “possibly revealing” of Bieber’s private parts, the judge said.
Last week, the prosecutors released to the media several hours of video surveillance footage of Bieber while he was in police custody.
The video showed him being frisked, chatting with police, and doing push-ups in a holding cell. But it was noted that clips of him giving the urine sample were withheld as review by the judge is necessarily.
The pop star’s private life has taken a seemingly unrestrained turn in the past year, it just a month ago when Bieber was charged because of assaulting a limousine driver in Toronto. The case is State of Florida v Justin Drew Bieber, B14-2900.