[author: Courtney Sherwood]
When Justin Bieber took a swing at a paparazzi photographer who’d been following the pop star through a California mall, Bieber may have thought he was fighting back against a stalker.
But after the photographer called 911 and complained of upper torso pain, Bieber became the criminal suspect. Detectives have opened an investigation, though they have not yet filed criminal battery charges against the 18-year-old celebrity.
Is it a Crime?
Bieber’s precarious situation should act as a warning to others who feel they are being stalked or harassed, according to legal experts. The legal system allows you to fight back against stalkers, but you should do it in court, not with your fists.
Even if Bieber’s blow was just a glancing tap, it could qualify as assault, which is defined as an intentional contact that causes its victim fear, even if there’s no physical harm. Only when you’re fighting back in self-defense can a blow to a stalker be legally justified, former prosecutor Dmitry Gorin told the Los Angeles Times.
“Bieber could face a charge if he pushed or hit the photographer and it was not in self-defense,” Gorin said. “But it is not really a jail-time offense.”
Bieber would have been better off following celebrity Kirsten Dunst’s example. Last year, Dunst obtained a restraining order against a man who had repeatedly waited outside her home in hopes of seeing her.
Read more about how to obtain a restraining order.
According to celebrity news site TMZ, police have concluded their investigation into Bieber’s altercation with the photographer. It’s now up to the Los Angeles County District Attorney to decide whether to prosecute.
Even if prosecutors ultimately choose not to move forward, Bieber could still land in court for hitting the photographer.
“Under the California Tort Law or the state’s personal injury law, any negligent act of a person which caused damages or injuries to other can be a ground to raise legal action,” according to Rodney Mesriani, the principal partner of Mesriani Law Group.
According to TMZ, witnesses saw a lawyer walk up to the photographer and advise him that he could get a lot of money out of the incident. So far, no civil charges have been filed against Bieber. Only time will tell if the photographer decides to take that path.
*Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs at a German paper Bildzeitung 's headquarters in Berlin, Friday, June 8, 2012. (AP Photo/dapd/ Timur Emek)