Racism is still prevalent in traffic stops throughout California. Law enforcement officers continue to pull over more Black individuals without probable cause than White individuals.
According to the annual report by the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, in 13.1 percent of the traffic stops of Black individuals in 2020, the police reported “no action taken.” That indicates the person Black person was not engaged in criminal activities. That rate is 2.3 times higher than the rage of White individuals.
Additionally, law enforcement officers searched Black individuals at a rate of 2.4 times that of White individuals. Use of force against African Americans during a traffic stop occurred 2.5 times more than the use of force against White individuals.
Sadly, racially motivated traffic stops continue in California Racial profiling by police officers for traffic stops violates the United States Constitution and California law.
What is Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling is the discriminatory practice by police officers of targeting people for suspicion of committing a crime because of the person’s race, national origin, ethnicity, or religion. Racial profiling assumes that a person is more likely to commit a crime because of their ethnicity or skin color.
Victims of racial profiling in California are more likely to be subjected to unfounded traffic stops and car searches based on race instead of a reasonable suspicion of a crime. Examples of racial profiling on the street include DUI stops, DUI checkpoints, and general traffic stops.
Racial profiling in California often involves African Americans and Hispanic individuals. However, people from the Middle East and Asia are also victims of racial profiling by law enforcement agents.
California Penal Code §13519.4 – Racial Profiling
California Penal Code §13519.4 prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in racial or identity profiling.” What does that mean?
The legislature included the statement in the code section that states racial or identity profiling presents a danger to the “fundamental principles of our Constitution and a democratic society.” The practice “is abhorrent and cannot be tolerated.” Racial profiling is used for stopping and detaining individuals has no place in our criminal justice system.
Defining Racial or Identity Profiling for the Purposes of Traffic Stops
Police departments have a duty to educate officers to reduce the instances of racial profiling in traffic stops. Racial profiling is a threat to public safety for all citizens.
California Penal Code §13519.4 defines racial or identity profiling as the consideration or reliance on any of the following qualities to any degree when deciding which persons to stop:
- National original
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Mental or physical disability
An officer may consider and rely upon a description of a suspect that includes the above characteristics when they are actively searching for a suspect. However, the code section lists the activities a police officer cannot take based on racial profiling.
Activities Prohibited if They Are Based Solely on a Person’s Race or Identity
The statute lists specific activities that a police officer cannot take if they base their decision solely on a person’s race or identity. Under Penal Code §13519.4, racial profiling is prohibited in the following activities:
- Traffic stops or pedestrian stops
- Actions during a stop, including asking questions
- Seizing any property
- Consensual and non-consensual search of a person or property
- Issuing citations
- Removing people from a vehicle during a traffic stop
- Making an arrest
If a police officer makes a DUI stop solely based on your race, the traffic stop is illegal because of racial discrimination and a violation of your civil liberties. A judge could dismiss your DUI case if a police officer pulled you over for no other reason than you were a Black man or woman.
DUI Enforcement and Racial Bias – How Does it Impact DUI Stops and Arrests?
Studies indicate that racial bias may significantly impact DUI enforcement efforts. For example, according to one analysis of DUI cases in California, Latino/Hispanic men were convicted of driving under the influence at higher rates than White men, related to the estimated rates of alcohol-impaired driving for each specific group. The suggestion is that racial bias plays a role in White men having lower chances of conviction than Latino/Hispanic men committing the same offenses.
Black, Latino, and Hispanic men have many more arrests, convictions, and incarcerations than men of other races or ethnicities, including DUI convictions. Generally, African American drivers are stopped and searched more often than White drivers. As a result, they are over-represented in the number of DUI convictions compared to their portion of the population.
The study’s authors conclude that addressing the differences in DUI convictions based on race is crucial. A DUI conviction can have long-term negative impacts on a person’s housing, employment, voting rights, education, and other critical aspects of life.
California’s Drunk Driving Statute
If police officers pull you over for suspicion of driving under the influence, you could be charged under California Vehicle Code §23152. The officers may charge you with driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.
The penalties for a first time DUI conviction can include jail time, fines, suspended driving privileges, summary probation, DUI school, and other penalties. In addition, your criminal record and the circumstances of the DUI arrest can enhance the penalties for a drunk driving conviction.
What Should I Do if I Am Stopped for DUI Because of Racial Profiling?
Do not resist arrest or argue racial profiling with the police officer. You could escalate the situation, placing yourself and others in danger. Instead, act respectfully when answering the police officer’s questions about your identity and address.
You do not have to answer other questions, such as have you been drinking and where were you earlier. You may calmly and politely tell the police officer you do not want to answer questions without a California criminal defense attorney.
You are not required to take the field sobriety tests or the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). You are not penalized for refusing these tests during a DUI stop.
However, you could face enhanced penalties for a DUI conviction if you refuse the evidentiary chemical test after your arrest. The California Department of Motor Vehicles also suspends your driving privileges.
As soon as possible, contact a California DUI defense lawyer to discuss your case. An attorney analyzes the circumstances surrounding the DUI stop to determine if your civil rights were violated.
Proving Racial Profiling in a California DUI Case
It could be challenging to prove that the police officer stopped you because of racial profiling. However, a skilled DUI defense lawyer may be able to argue successfully that you were targeted because of racial profiling. You would not have been arrested for DUI but for the illegal and discriminatory racial profiling by law enforcement officers.
Therefore, the police officers violated your Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures. The police officers also violated your Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
Your attorney may request the police officer’s record to search for other instances of racial profiling. Building a pattern of racial profiling can strengthen your racial profiling defense.
A California DUI lawyer also explores other DUI defenses as they gather evidence, interview witnesses, search for video of the DUI stop and arrest, and build a defense strategy for the drunk driving charges.
Filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence Because of Racial Profiling
If you can prove that you were stopped because of your race, it could invalidate the charges of driving under the influence. Police officers must have reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed or someone is in danger to initiate a traffic stop. If the officers make a traffic stop for an illegal reason, their motives impact the entire criminal case.
Had they not made the traffic stop, they would not have gathered evidence that you were driving under the influence. Because the police officers broke the law, the evidence should not be allowed in your case.
If there is evidence of racial profiling, your attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence. Your attorney argues that any evidence obtained because of illegal means is inadmissible in court. If the judge agrees, none of the evidence the police gathered after they made the illegal traffic stop could be used against you.
Without the evidence, the prosecution does not have a case. The prosecutor may drop the case, or the judge could grant a motion to dismiss for lack of evidence. If you sustained any damages because of the illegal DUI stop, you could sue the state for damages in civil court.
Protecting Your Best Interest by Negotiating a Plea Agreement
If a racial profiling or other DUI defense strategy does not work, you may want to consider whether you want to proceed to trial or negotiate a plea agreement. When the state’s evidence against you is convincing, going to trial can be risky. So instead, your CA DUI lawyer works to negotiate the best plea deal possible for your case.
Your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges and decrease the penalties. If so, that might be the best choice you have to protect your future. A DUI conviction can follow you for many years.
Before pleading guilty, talk with a DUI defense attorney. Learn about all your options for fighting drunk driving charges, including raising allegations of racial profiling.
Victims of racial profiling should be heard in court. They deserve justice for the wrongs committed by police officers. The first step in righting wrongs is seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer.