Racial profiling is the use of race in determining who is a suspect. Racial profiling may be used to target certain races for traffic stops because they are believed to be more likely to be engaged in criminal activity.
Although police officers have the right pull you over if you commit a traffic offense even if they have ulterior motives, there are some actions you can take to protect yourself from racial profiling:
- Know your rights – if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the police cannot search your car unless they have probable cause to believe that you are involved in criminal activity.
- Follow all laws – this one might sound like a no-brainer, but following all laws means that the officer will have less ways to find probable cause to search or arrest you.
- Do not argue with the officer – again, this sounds obvious but do not argue with the officer. Obey all reasonable instructions. An attempt to dispute the matter with the officer can lead to an arrest. The best place to challenge racial profiling is in court, not on the road.
- Get the badge number, license plate number, and name of the officer and file a complaint if you think your rights have been violated.
Many states have created laws to deal with the problem of racial profiling. Some of the laws enacted include:
- Requiring law enforcement officers to collect data about the people they pull over so that any patterns of racial profiling can be addressed
- Establishing departmental disciplinary action for officers who engage in racial profiling
- Requiring training and education for officers concerning the issue of racial profiling
The following states have some kind of anti-racial profiling law: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
Most of these laws require that the officer write down exactly why they stopped the vehicle and mandate that the written reports be reviewed by an oversight committee.
Criminal procedure laws also require that evidence be suppressed if the police cannot produce a probable cause for their search.
As of 2003, the Department of Justice has a provision in its guidelines which prohibits racial profiling. The Department of Justice is the federal department responsible for law enforcement and the department includes the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
There are currently no laws passed by Congress which address racial profiling.
If you think you have been the victim of racial profiling, you should speak to a criminal law lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.