Despite his alleged retirement, Justin Bieber is back in the spotlight, this time for driving under the influence. It’s hard to tell who’s more upset: those who hoped he’d fade away quietly or the hordes of devastated “Beliebers.”
The 19-year-old was arrested Thursday morning in Miami Beach for DUI and resisting arrest. The police report states that he blew a .04, which wouldn’t be a problem if he were 21. If convicted, he could serve a prison sentence, pay a fine and lose his license.
One detail stuck out to me – the fine, and the fact that it’s remarkably low for someone like him.
Unlike Pennsylvania, Florida doesn’t have a handy dandy “DUI Law Grading and Sentencing Guide” easily accessible online. I used that to figure out what kind of punishment Bieber could expect if he were convicted here. Assuming I’m reading the chart correctly, he’d face 48 hours to six months in jail, a 12-month license suspension and a fine of $500 to $5,000, among other penalties.
By definition, a fine is a sum of money imposed as a penalty. For many people, especially people like Bieber, it’s the most effective penalty of all. Money is, after all, what keeps him in yellow Lamborghinis and size 7 shoes. He has plenty of money.
In March 2013, Parade revealed Bieber’s salary to be roughly $55 million. (Since then, Forbes upped the number to $58 million.) According to Parade, he earned an estimated $6,261 per hour in 2012. And not just for the average joe’s eight-hour workday.
He made more than $6,000 every hour of the day, every day of the year. Even when he was sleeping. Even when he was dining in Beverly Hills with Selena Gomez. In the time it took Bieber to watch one episode of “Saturday Night Live,” he made six grand.
The question isn’t whether that’s ridiculous – it is – or whether he deserves it – that’s debatable – but should his income affect the literal price he pays when he screws up.
So say Bieber is fined $2,500. It’s just a drop in the Pacific freaking Ocean for the ole Biebs. In fact, it’s what he makes in 24 minutes. That’s equivalent to a minimum-wage worker in Pennsylvania paying a fine of around $2.90.
No wonder he was smiling in his mugshot.
A single 19-year-old living at the federal poverty level earns $11,490. If he received the same fine for the same offense as Bieber, he’d lose around 22 percent of what he makes all year. So if every minor facing a DUI charge paid 22 percent of his salary, Bieber would have had to fork over $12.1 million.
Still smiling, Justin?
Maybe 22 percent isn’t the right number, but any percentage is better than a flat fee when it comes to the fair distribution of punishment.
This applies to all celebs, not just Bieber. The feds would love it. They’d make a killing off the likes of Lindsay Lohan. And maybe LA’s elite would take their offenses more seriously.