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New Study Proves That A “Persistent Racial Bias” Exists in All Police Traffic Stops & Searches, And This Significantly Affects Drug Stops & Arrests


In accordance with statistics previously released by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation demonstrating that minority drivers are much more likely to be searched by police officers during traffic stops than white drivers here in North Carolina, a new study published in Nature Human Behaviour has revealed that police decisions to stop and search motorists everywhere are primarily motivated by “persistent racial bias;” specifically, that not only are Black and Latinx drivers stopped in part due to their race, but also searched by both municipal and state police on the basis of less evidence than their white counterparts. Ultimately, the study found that while the legalization of recreational marijuana in some areas decreased the number of searches of all drivers, the evidentiary standard used to search minority versus white drivers remained lower, which has significant implications, especially when police more heavily patrol minority neighborhoods in general.

Race A Motivating Factor During Daylight Stops

The authors of the study examined 95 million traffic stops between 2011 and 2018 involving 35 municipal police departments and 21 state patrol agencies. The data demonstrated that significantly fewer Black drivers were stopped after sunset compared to during daylight hours, indicating that race was a motivating factor for pulling drivers over in general, as race could not be detected as easily after sunset.

Why It Is Imperative That You Know Your Rights

The implications of the study highlight just how injurious the “downstream effects” of racial profiling can be. If for example police already disproportionately patrol minority neighborhoods, even enforcement of minor traffic violations–such as a broken tail light–can place significant a burden on minority communities and implicate a number of criminal justice concerns when it comes to racial profiling and potentially illegal searches and seizures.

Policies Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Did Help to Reduce Bias

Although the evidentiary standard applied to justify a search and seizure for a Black or Latinx driver remained lower than that applied to a white driver, even where recreational marijuana was legalized, and Black and Latinx drivers were subject to more overall searches and seizures on the basis of less evidence than white drivers by both municipal and state police, the researchers did still find that policy decisions legalizing recreational marijuana reduced the issue of racial disparities in traffic stops by lowering the number of overall searches of minority (and all) drivers, indicating that these policy decisions do have an effect on racial profiling in drug stops and arrests.

Contact A North Carolina Unfair Traffic/Drug Stop Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been pulled over, it is imperative that you know your rights. Know, for example, that for anything that is not in plain sight, police will generally need probable cause or a warrant to search your car, and you have the right to refuse them permission to conduct a search if they do not have probable cause or a warrant. While it is important to be calm, polite, and respectful, it is also important to protect yourself from the get-go and never waive your rights, which includes consenting to a search when police do not have probable cause or a warrant (especially when police have in some circumstances been charged with planting drugs on drivers). If you have any questions or concerns, contact the experienced North Carolina criminal attorneys at Hauter Law Firm, PC for a free consultation.



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