“Routine” Traffic Stops May Involve Racial Profiling and Police Misconduct

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer for police misconductOver the past several years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the issue of police misconduct. In several high-profile cases, police officers have been accused of using excessive force, especially against minorities. This was most recently highlighted in the case of Daunte Wright, who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This particular case has highlighted an issue that affects many Black people and other minorities. Police officers often pull people over for minor traffic violations, but these incidents may lead to more serious criminal charges, and an encounter may turn deadly, resulting in serious injuries or death.

How Police Use Traffic Stops as “Fishing Expeditions”

Traffic stops are meant to protect public safety, and police officers may stop a driver who has committed traffic violations such as speeding, running a red light, making illegal turns, or other unlawful actions that endanger others on the road. However, officers may pull people over for other types of violations, such as an expired registration or a broken tail light. 

In many cases, traffic stops for minor violations are used as an attempt to find probable cause for other more serious offenses, and people of color are disproportionately targeted in these types of situations. In the case of Daunte Wright, the officer cited him for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, stating that this was an obstruction that affected his view of the road. Many people have alleged that police officers perform these types of traffic stops in hopes of uncovering criminal activity that will allow them to make an arrest. By using a minor traffic violation as a pretext, officers may then ask about whether a driver has stolen the car or whether they have been using drugs, and they may arrest the driver based on their answers, their behavior, or the officer’s observations of objects inside the vehicle.

Some states have begun implementing new laws limiting when police officers can pull people over for minor traffic violations, and it is hoped that this will reduce the potential for racial profiling in these types of situations. Some court cases have also challenged the legality of these types of traffic stops, including a 2010 Connecticut case in which the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a driver who was pulled over based on a chain and cross that were hanging from his rearview mirror.

Contact a Hartford Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges after being pulled over for a traffic violation, the Woolf Law Firm, LLC can help you determine your options for defense. We will work with you to determine whether the traffic stop was based on racial profiling or other illegal factors, and we will help you address any other forms of police misconduct or violations of your civil rights. Contact our Connecticut criminal defense lawyer today at 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation and learn how we can help with your case.

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-air-fresheners.html

https://www.npr.org/2021/04/16/988200868/cities-looking-to-reform-police-traffic-stops-to-combat-fishing-expeditions

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