Reports across the United States find time and again that police officers stop African-American drivers for minor traffic infractions in an attempt to find drugs, guns or other illegal contraband because the officer believes African-Americans are more likely to carry illegal things (when, in reality, studies have shown this to be completely false). These racist practices are part of a larger trend of racial profiling. Read on to learn more about racial profiling and what to do if you think it happens to you.
How does racial profiling affect criminal charges?
The American Civil Liberties Union defines racial profiling as the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race.
So, when officers arrest you for shoplifting, DUI or other charges, you want to believe that your race had nothing to do with it. However, it’s been proven both in North America and even in Europe that police target and arrest far more minorities than they do white people despite a laundry list of regulations and law enforcement training trying to prevent officers from acting on these illegal biases. (These biases can also include prejudices based on religion and national origin, too.)
What’s more disturbing is that a minority might also receive a tougher punishment for the same crime as a white person, and your charges could be more serious. For example, if you were charged with felony assault for a fight, a white person might be charged with misdemeanor disturbing the peace for the same type of fight.
And it’s not just police officers with badges who participate in law enforcement racial profiling. It’s anyone who is acting in a “policing capacity” for public purposes.
The following people also are included in the law enforcement category:
- Airport security agents
- Mall security guards
- Airline pilots who have the power to boot passengers from commercial flights
How do we fight racial profiling?
The problem with racial profiling in criminal cases is that it is hard to prove – especially since the U.S. claims to be a “post-racial” society. Often, it is your word against the officer’s word, and there could be accompanying evidence that you broke the law, even if that evidence was obtained because of profiling. That’s why it’s so important to hire a criminal defense attorney who knows the law and is dedicated to defending you and your freedom.
In the evolving fight against racial profiling, it’s also very important that you know your rights. Because police have been found to pull minorities over for little to no reason, here are some things to remember if you’re ever pulled over:
- Remain calm. If it’s dark outside, turn on the dome light in your car and then put your hands on the wheel until the officer arrives at your window. Do NOT make any sudden movements.
- Everything you say to the officer is admissible in court, so it’s best to keep your conversation and your answers to a minimum. Important things to say, instead, include:
- “I am not answering questions.”
- “I am not taking field sobriety tests.” (different from a breathalyzer test)
- “I do not consent to a search.”
- “I want to speak to a lawyer.”
- All states have “implied consent” laws, which means that by driving on public roads you consent to a breathalyzer test. You still have the right to refuse, but the officer can then arrest you for “per se intoxication,” meaning that the officer believes you refused because you are intoxicated.
- Similarly, police officers will try many different maneuvers to get you to consent to searching your vehicle. Do not give in. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you say, “I do not consent to searches.” (This probably will not stop them from searching your vehicle, but it means the burden is higher for them when justifying the search in court.)
Contact an experience defense attorney today
If you have criminal charges that you believe are based on racial profiling, contact Jacquelyn Ford Law today. Our legal team is ready to come to your defense. Let’s figure this out together.