Somehow I knew this day would come. Down deep I knew that there would come a time when I had to express sympathy of Justin Bieber. Thanks to the Miami Police and a Florida law that day has come. CBS4 News, the Miami Herald and other media outlets went to court under the state’s open records law to demand videos of Bieber giving a urine sample. This followed Bieber’s arrest after he drag raced a Lamborghini on a residential road in South Beach and admitted to smoking marijuana and taking prescription pain killers. The video showed Bieber urinating and a black box had to be placed over his genitalia by court order of Judge Miami-Dade County Judge William Altfield in the interests of his privacy. What I fail to understand is why the entire video of urinating is not treated as a protected matter for privacy purposes. The demand by these media outfits truly disgusts me but I am more concerned in how this law is being interpreted to publicly release videos of people urinating.
Bieber and R&B singer Khalil Amir Sharieff —driving a Lamborghini and a Ferrari, respectively — were both arrested for drag racing. A breath test detected some evidence of alcohol, but it was below the 0.02 threshold in Florida for underage drivers.
Because these are police videos, they are treated as a public record. Florida protects privacy under Article 1, Section 23: “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.” However, that “herein” including the reservation that “This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.”
What I do not understand is why Altfield can order a black box placed over part of the picture but not view the entire picture to be privacy barred. He is still being shown in what most people view as a private act. Altfield said two of the five unreleased video clips depict the singer’s genitalia during a urine test and that the video’s airing would be an invasion of privacy that outweighed the public’s right to know: “Mr. Bieber’s right to privacy is paramount,” the judge said. “He has not lost his right to privacy, and that is what is important here.” However, he then released the images with the blacked out portions.
It is absurd that the police can force you into a videotaped urination and then claim that you have no privacy protections because you urinated while being videotaped. When I served as the legal adviser to the Florida House of Representatives on constitutional issues, I watched how ridiculous this law had become. When members wanted to meet in private, one or two would literally have to leave the room to avoid triggering the right to access law. They would literally stand on the other side of the door to keep the number of people in the office below a certain number.
That was comical. This is not. I realize that this country is obsessed with celebrities and often treats them as if they are non-humans. However, Bieber should have a modicum of privacy when forced to give a urine sample. Likewise, the media should have a modicum of dignity and class in waiving their right to such photos or videos.