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Racial Profiling and Criminal Arrests

Racial profiling is a controversial tactic used by law enforcement that could lead to wrongful arrest, and even wrongful conviction. If you feel you are a victim of racial profiling, a criminal defense attorney may be your best option in securing your freedom. Connect with a local defense attorney to learn more about racial profiling laws in your area by filling out the free online evaluation form on this page or calling 877-445-1059 today.

What Is Racial Profiling?

There is no tangible set of circumstances that constitute racial profiling and this type of discrimination really has no concrete definition. The loose definition of racial profiling is the questioning or search of a person based completely on the color of their skin.

Incidents of racial profiling are abundantly reported in public places such as airports or urban areas and in traffic stops on public roadways. The common denominator in all racial profiling incidents is that the person is stopped, questioned, arrested, detained or becomes a criminal suspect based on a statistical profile of their race or ethnicity.

Racial Profiling and Civil Rights

When police use racial profiling as a basis for probable cause, it becomes a situation in which not all classes of people are provided equal protection under the law. Civil rights advocates, the ACLU and Amnesty International are among those who have called for end of racial profiling tactics by police, which they say is a civil rights violation. Some groups argue that the disproportionate number of convicted minorities is due to racial profiling tactics.

Amnesty International says that the practice of racial profiling makes Americans less safe, reduces the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts and undermines national unity. AI also notes that racial profiling is a proven failure in the “war on drugs.”

Laws against Racial Profiling

Racial profiling tactics seem to be so obviously wrong, illegal and unconstitutional; most people would assume that it is against the law. However, there are 26 states that have no law explicitly prohibiting racial profiling. Additionally, laws in 46 states do not ban racial profiling based on religion or religious appearance. There is no federal law banning law enforcement from using profiling.

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Fighting Back Against Racial Profiling

Although many states do not have laws that ban the use of racial profiling, there have been successful lawsuits in some states that have passed laws banning the tactic. In Maryland, racial profiling of motorists is prohibited. The state law does not prohibit racial profiling of pedestrians.

PBS interviewed Robert Wilkins, an African American man who was a victim of racial profiling in 1992. Wilkins, who is a Harvard educated lawyer, was driving on a highway in Maryland with three of his relatives in the car with him when he was pulled over by a state trooper.

When the trooper told Wilkins that the car would be searched, Wilkins says that he asked as to the reason for the search and what was the basis of his probable cause for the search. The state trooper told Wilkins that there had been a problem in the area with rental cars transporting drugs. Wilkins informed the trooper that he was well aware that not every rental car on the highway was being pulled over and that a person does not become a drug suspect simply by driving a rental car.

Wilkins believed that he was stopped because he is black. He filed a lawsuit against the Maryland State Police and eventually received a settlement. As a result, Maryland state troopers must now record the race and gender of every driver that they stop.

Have You Been a Victim of Racial Profiling?

If you believe that you have faced discrimination due to racial profiling, contact one of our sponsoring local criminal defense lawyers to set up a consultation to talk about your case. As we have mentioned, some states have laws prohibiting racial profiling and a criminal defense attorney can advise you of the laws in your state.

Simply fill out our free online evaluation form or call us at 887-445-1059, and we’ll connect you with a local criminal defense lawyer who can examine your case in detail and discuss your concerns about racial profiling during a free, no-obligation consultation.

The above summary of racial profiling is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on racial profiling, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.


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