Report: NC Law Enforcement More Likely to Search Black Drivers
Recent headlines in local and national news have detailed the traffic stop in South Carolina that resulted in a white officer fatally shooting a black man. According to reports, the victim ran from his vehicle during a routine traffic stop. While details of that incident are still emerging, it has put a spotlight on the racial disparities involved in traffic stops. As a recent report illustrates, black drivers may be unfairly targeted.
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Department of Political Science examined data from 2014 traffic stops in more than a dozen communities across the state, including Charlotte. Researchers found that black drivers were searched twice as often as white drivers. Data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reveals that 1.4 million traffic stops were made in the area in 2014, and black drivers had a search rate that was double that of white drivers. The study found similar gaps in other communities as well.
The local statistics mirror what is happening across the country. The U.S. Justice Department released a report in 2013 that stated that 1 in every 10 Americans was pulled over for a traffic violation in 2011. The report also found:
- Relatively more black drivers were pulled over than whites.
- Black drivers were 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites and 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than Hispanics.
- American Indians were the most likely to be pulled over.
The Justice Department also found that 5 percent of African Americans were never given any reason for the traffic stop, compared to 2.6 percent of whites and 3.3 percent of Hispanics. Minorities were also more likely to be subject to searches and seizures.
Know Your Rights
Anytime law enforcement officers pull over a vehicle, they must have probable cause. Unfortunately, probable cause can be subjective: officers may claim they saw the vehicle swerve or determine the driver made an “unsafe” decision. By law, however, officers may not use a traffic stops as a pretext to launch an investigation. In other words, a legal traffic stop does not justify an unnecessary search of the vehicle or person. Law enforcement must still have probable cause to search a vehicle.
It is possible to fight a traffic stop’s legitimacy by bringing a motion to suppress. In these instances, it is often the driver’s word against the police officer’s. At Nosal & Jeter, LLP one of our attorneys is former officer who has a deep understanding of what a routine traffic stop should look like – and what violates the law. Allow us to help you fight your ticket today.
Source: WBTV, “Study: Black drivers more likely to get searched during traffic stops in NC,” Steve Crump, April 13, 2015