Sunday, September 18, 2011

Driving while black can get you arrested!

All too often I have potential clients come to my office who have been arrested because they were targeted by law enforcement for driving while black.
   In many cities, driving while black is a serious problem. What is driving while black? Just what it says: If you're black and you're driving a car and a cop passes you, you will get pulled over. This is a major problem in Huntsville, Alabama where my main office is. Every day I consult with a potential client who is black and was inexplicably pulled over by a police officer on a pretextual stop and then rousted. A pretextual stop is where the cop pulls you over for something minor, such a a burned out tag light, and uses that to begin an all-out assault on your liberties. For example: A cop pulls you over, tells you your tag light is out, then asks "do you have anything in the car I need to know about?"
   The open-ended question is designed to look for a reason to investigate you. For example, such an open-ended question will elicit a response of "no" or "yes." Some people stupidly will blurt out that they've got a bag of pot in their car, or a weapon. That's too bad, because you have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent and don't have to admit to anything. So, the cop will use the admission that there's illegal drugs in the car to take the driver out of the car and search the car, resulting in an arrest.
   When the driver says "no," the officer will then claim that the way the driver said "no" was suspicious, thus furthering an investigation.
    This happens to blacks every day. The inherent racism of profiling a person because of their race is apparent. And it's important to know it's illegal. That said, it's productive for the police. Since blacks are 35 times more likely to be in possession of illegal drugs than whites --yep, that's the statistic -- cops are 35 times more likely to pull over a black motorist than a white. This is especially true after 2 a.m., as all cops know that between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. the motorists on the road are most likely to be either a criminal or a drunk. That's an established statistic.
   So, if you're black and driving between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. you are 35 times more likely to get pulled over than a white driver.
   Remember, if you're pulled over by a cop, you don't have to help him arrest you. Give your name, address, social security number. Hand over your license and insurance card. If the officer asks to search your car, say, "No! Get a warrant!" Then, if the cop insists, don't resist. Comply silently and let the officer search. At the point you say no and he searches anyway, he's got to prove in court the search was allowed by law. If he can't, you win. If you consent to a search, you've waived that challenge.
    I hope that you never experience being pulled over merely for driving while black. If you are, remember you have rights. Call a lawyer and defend those rights.

(Required by Alabama law: No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than other lawyers.)

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