Justin Bieber, who was charged with DUI and resisting arrest in Miami Beach on Thursday, could be at risk of becoming one of the highest-profile immigrants to ever get kicked out of the U.S. if he isn't careful, some attorneys said.
Bieber, 19, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, was silent as he appeared in front of a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge, his head cocked and hair coiffed as he sometimes rolled his tongue around the inside of his cheek during the bond hearing. His bond was set for $2,500 for the misdemeanor charges, and he left jail not long after, waving to the media mob that assembled after his arrest.
Hours earlier, according to police records, he and a friend were drag racing down a Miami Beach street in a yellow Lamborgini and a red Ferrari while a pair of SUVs blocked traffic. The officers guessed they were going about 55 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Police said a dazed Bieber, who is too young to legally drink, smelled of booze and started cursing at the officer who pulled him over.
Bieber said he'd just come from recording music at a studio and failed a field sobriety test, according to police records. When the officer tried to arrest Bieber, he resisted, pulling his arm away, the arrest report said.
Police Chief Ray Martinez said at a news conference that the singer also had an invalid Georgia driver's license and admitted to smoking marijuana, taking prescription medication and drinking.
In addition to the drunk driving and resisting arrest without violence charges, Bieber was charged with having a suspended license. No drug charges were filed.
Although the charges are misdemeanors, some attorneys said that Bieber could be in serious trouble if he gets rapped with a drug charge.
Bieber has made himself inextricable from American pop culture, but he is not actually American. A Canadian citizen -- reportedly in the U.S. on an O-1 performer's visa -- he can be deported if convicted of a serious crime or if officials deem him a big enough troublemaker, attorneys say.
"He’s on this path of destruction thinking there are no consequences, but the most grave consequences, of living here and pursuing his dream, is in jeopardy," said Brian Claypool, a Pasadena-based attorney and TV analyst.
When Bieber was arrested early Thursday morning, he was already under investigation on suspicion of egging his neighbor's house in Calabasas earlier in January.
The Los Angeles County sheriff's investigation brings the possibility of felony charges after Bieber's neighbor claimed at least $20,000 in damages. Officials with the sheriff's department also said drugs were found in Bieber's home during a warrant raid. Bieber has not been charged.
“He’s headed down a bad path, and he needs to watch out," said Stacy Tolchin, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, who said the egging could still prove to be a bigger problem for Bieber's life in the U.S. than the Miami Beach arrest.
Immigration law can get complicated when it comes to deportation.
Tolchin said a nonpermanent resident can get kicked out of the U.S. if found guilty of a felony capable of bringing a sentence longer than a year in prison; even if someone is sentenced to less than a year in prison on such a charge, they could still be deported.
Of Bieber's Miami Beach charges, Tolchin said, "All that stuff, obviously it’s not good, but it’s not going to be a violation of his status. Let’s say if it’s assault, a felony assault, and he’s convicted; that’s a big problem.”
A drug conviction, too, can be "a big problem" for Bieber's life in the U.S. if the star were to get hit with such a charge, Tolchin said. “He really needs to get excellent criminal defense and an excellent immigration attorney," she said.
Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in immigration law and a former immigration prosecutor, added that if Bieber admitted to police that he abused drugs, it could be a big problem.
Shusterman pointed to a provision in U.S. immigration law that states, "Any alien who is, or at any time after admission has been, a drug abuser or addict is deportable."
Immigration law also allows U.S. officials to deport visitors for "moral turpitude," which is a hazier area of U.S. law, immigration attorneys said.
"That’s an immigration term, and it can get you deported generally for intentional or knowing malicious conduct of some kind,” said Mitchell Ignatoff, a criminal defense attorney in Englewood, N.J., who has handled immigration cases. “There’s a long history of what crimes involve moral turpitude under immigration laws. Theft is one; certain violent crimes."
And much of it involves the immigrant's mental state during the crime. If the alleged drag racing was "intentional or knowing" in that it could cause bodily harm, perhaps that could be considered moral turpitude, Ignatoff said.
But it depends on whether Bieber is convicted.
“Right now he’s not facing anything unless he gets convicted," Ignatoff said.
That said, Bieber's arrest is practically guaranteed to make his life more difficult even if the charges are dropped, according to Paul Herzog, an L.A.-based attorney who has handled green cards for entertainers and musicians.
“In the future, any time he tries to come in the country, or tries to renew his visa, it’s going to slow, because he’s been arrested," said Herzog. "It’s going to be a flag."
Although Bieber told Rolling Stone in 2011 that he was not interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, he could now face some obstacles if he changes his mind.
"You have to have good moral conduct to become a U.S. citizen, and that’s much harder when you’re convicted of something," Ignatoff said.