Miami Beach, Florida - Teen pop star Justin Bieber's tumultuous life off-stage landed him in jail for the first time on Thursday when police arrested the singer for drunk driving after he was caught drag racing on a main Miami Beach street in a rented Lamborghini.
The 19-year-old Canadian initially resisted arrest, cursed at police officers and later told them he had consumed alcohol, pot and prescription drugs, police said. Then, changing his demeanour, he grew co-operative and even smiled for his mug shot, coiffed hair perfectly in place.
Dressed in a red prison suit, a silent Bieber heard the charges via video link: driving under the influence, resisting arrest without violence and driving on an expired Georgia licence.
A judge set bail at $2 500 and released the Boyfriend singer. If convicted, Bieber could face jail time of up to six months, although experts say he will likely get off with a lighter sentence for his first offence.
Bieber's arrest is his most serious run-in with the law during a year in which his problems have ranged from allegations of speeding through his gated community near Los Angeles to a felony investigation into whether he pelted a neighbour's house with eggs.
His once meteoric career has also showed signs of distress. A year ago, he became the youngest artist with five No. 1 albums, but in March he collapsed on a London stage and in December hinted he might be ready to retire after releasing a compilation album and a film about his life.
Just after 4am EST on Thursday (10h00 GMT), officers observed Bieber's yellow Lamborghini alongside another driver in a red Ferrari accelerate from a stop position on a four-lane road in a residential area just a few blocks from the South Beach tourist district, Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez said.
Two SUVs had blocked off the road so the singer could race a friend who was driving the rented Ferrari, police said.
Bieber was driving the sports car at between 55 and 60 miles per hour (88km/h and 96km/h) in a 30-mile-per-hour (48km/h) zone, Miami Beach police spokeswoman Vivian Hernandez said.
The singer was “a little belligerent, using some choice words”, when arrested, Martinez said, but he grew co-operative at the police station.
In the arrest report, an officer said Bieber had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on his breath. The singer told police he was returning from a studio recording session and repeatedly asked why he had been stopped and arrested.
“Why did you stop me?” he asked, according to the report. “Why do you have to search me?”
Bieber later acknowledged that he had taken prescription medicine, had been smoking marijuana and had consumed alcohol, Martinez said.
Representatives for Bieber and his mother, Pattie Mallette, said they had no comment about his arrest.
His friend, identified as R&B singer Khalil Sharieff, was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence. His bail was set at $1 000.
High-powered criminal defence attorney Roy Black, who has also represented radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, actor Kelsey Grammer and Kennedy family member William Kennedy Smith, appeared in court on behalf of both men.
“This hopefully will proceed as any other case,” Black said after the hearing.
The police department in the Florida city of Opa-locka is investigating whether two of its officers gave Bieber an unauthorised escort on Monday night after his private jet landed at the local airport, said city spokesman David Chiverton.
He confirmed the city also was looking into whether officers escorted Bieber to the King of Diamonds strip club in Miami Gardens.
“We're investigating whether our police department escorted him there,” said Chiverton. “You can have fun in Miami, but not too much fun.”
Bieber was later released and escorted from jail by correctional officers. Wearing a hoodie and dark sunglasses, Bieber climbed on top of a waiting SUV to wave to fans.
The teen and children's idol, who has had nearly 50 million followers on Twitter, risks running afoul of his fans' parents. And even his hardcore supporters recognise he may have entered dangerous territory.
“The rough times he is going through, all of his fans have to be here to support him,” said Salynn Chiong, 20, as she watched Bieber leaving jail.
She hoped he goes into rehab “and takes a break from the chaos he is living in”. - Reuters