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Are minorities unfairly targeted in North Carolina traffic stops?

In many cases when a person ends up facing drug charges or license revocation, the charges are a result of an otherwise routine traffic stop. When an officer pulls someone over for speeding or texting while driving, it can progress into a search of a car which can uncover a small amount of drugs, which then leads to criminal charges. Because of seriousness of these elevated charges, scrutinizing the legalities and fairness of a traffic stop and any subsequent search is important.

Recently, a report was released that suggests that North Carolina officers may be unfairly targeting minority drivers during traffic stops. In fact, a review of the data suggests that black and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely to have their car searched during a routine stop, when compared to white drivers.

For the past 10 years, officers have been collecting their own data during traffic stops in an attempt to monitor racial profiling. Other reports have found that black youths make up 57 percent of the North Carolina prison system. The combination of these studies sheds some light on why there is such a disparity in how different races are charged for drug offenses, for example. Could this be a result of being unfairly targeted from the very beginning of a traffic stop? This and other questions have been raised in light of the new report.

While researchers are careful to say that the discrepancy may not be intentional but more a result of poor training or education, the discrimination remains an issue that needs to be solved. A person who is pulled over for a traffic stop has protection against an unreasonable search, no matter what race he or she is. If a person's car is illegally searched, this type of police error could be the evidence that is needed to have any charges that resulted from the search dismissed.

Source: Charlotte Observer, "Study: NC minorities get more scrutiny in stops," Michael Biesecker, June 22, 2012

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