Although singer and teen heartthrob Justin Bieber is just 18, he has been in the limelight long enough to suffer his fair share of slings and arrows. It wasn’t long ago that the woman claiming to have become pregnant with Bieber’s baby during an encounter at a concert was disproven, and now he’s facing a hefty lawsuit from a fan who says her hearing was permanently damaged due to the volume level at one of his shows. Apparently you can’t make a delicious Bieber omelet without breaking a few eggs along the way. But the latest run-in with the legal process could put just put the Canadian pop star in the position of making a change for the better, and it’s all thanks to a speeding ticket.
On the morning of Friday, July 6th, Bieber was happily driving around Los Angeles in his new Fisker Karma, a distinctively chromed vehicle that he received as a gift for his 18th birthday during an appearance on Ellen. Unfortunately, this particular car is less recognized for its environmentally sound electric engine and hefty price tag (over $100K) than it is for its celebrity driver, and it wasn’t long before 5 or 6 carloads of paparazzi were apparently in pursuit of the inexperienced teen driver. The result was a high-speed chase that ended with several other drivers on the 101 freeway calling the police, leading authorities to pull over the pop star while the paparazzi fled the scene.
Justin Bieber was ultimately ticketed for reckless driving and speeds in excess of the posted limit (he was going over 80 mph in a 65 zone), and as he explained to a 911 operator just minutes later during a call, the officer instructed him to call the police when he felt threatened by pursuing paparazzi, rather than breaking driving laws himself. Apparently they began tailing him again as soon as police officers were out of sight.
Unfortunately for the young celebrity, it doesn’t matter if someone is chasing you; you’re still expected to obey the rules of the road. So he’ll have to pay the ticket. But something good could definitely come out of the incident, not just for Justin but for all celebrities that are harassed by paparazzi. Back in 2010, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved an anti-paparazzi law that created strict penalties for photographers and journalists found to be engaging in reckless behaviors (like following too close in traffic, for example) or those that created a false sense of imprisonment (like jamming up sidewalks or intersections so that celebrities or their cars could not get through). And Bieber’s case could be the first to be heard under this law.
When paparazzi fled the scene, evading police, CHP officers apparently got at least one license plate and identified the person driving the car. Now the Los Angeles city attorney is deciding whether or not to file charges under this law. The case could set a landmark precedent in terms of protecting celebrities from paparazzi stalkers, many of whom fear that their reckless behavior in pursuit of their targets could cause accidents like the one that killed Princess Diana. Since nobody wants to see a Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta auto accident lawyer brought into the mix, this case could lead to a marked shift in the way the paparazzi operate. Well, we can hope anyway.