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Can a police officer stop you just because of your race?

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Police officers are only human, and they sometimes make mistakes or act inappropriately while at work. What a police officer does on the job could potentially affect the rights of the people interacting with that officer.

For example, it is, unfortunately, common for law enforcement professionals to let their own internal biases impact how they treat individuals out in public. Someone with deep-seated racial biases may treat people differently based on their skin color.

Can a Maryland police officer racially profile you, pull you over for driving in a certain neighborhood, and then arrest you for a drug offense when all you did was drive through the wrong neighborhood?

Racial profiling should not occur in Maryland

There have been historical issues with racial profiling in Maryland, especially in Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs. Numerous individuals have faced traffic stops or stop-and-frisk interactions with police officers simply because of the color of their skin. These ongoing issues have forced the state to take a firm stance on the issue.

An officer does not have probable cause to stop someone just because their racial background does not match the background of a majority of people in a local community. Racial profiling is only helpful early in the process of evaluating if someone might match a specific description of an individual fleeing the scene of a crime. Sadly, many officers still change their behavior based on the race of the people they encounter.

Racial profiling is frequently to blame when an officer stops someone without any other explanation and starts to question them aggressively. That same officer may then start hunting for any excuse to search an individual’s person or vehicle and then bring charges against the person that they profiled.

How does profiling affect your case?

If you can show the courts either through the behavior of the officer during the traffic stop or their professional history, that your race was the reason for the traffic stop or face-to-face interaction rather than your behavior or identifying features, you can potentially push back against the evidence gathered during that interaction and the charges against you.

Understanding what kinds of police misconduct could play a role in your criminal defense strategy can help you hold officers accountable when they violate your rights.