In North Carolina, the drug war rages on. Unfortunately, so does racial profiling in police work.
North Carolina law enforcement claims they target high-level drug traffickers in an effort to save lives, but they don’t engage in profiling.
However, the data doesn’t seem to back up the assertion. They’ve been busy in the first quarter of 2021, seizing almost $65 million in illegal drugs. Throughout this activity, racial disparities in policing habits have become evident.
The State Bureau of Investigation released data that shows minority drivers are more likely than white drivers to be searched in a police stop. This constitutes clear racial profiling. Yet few are working to bring it to a halt.
Here’s what you need to know about racial profiling, including what to do if you think profiling led to a criminal charge on your record.
What Is Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling may go by other names, like bias-based policing or biased policing, but it all encapsulates the same meaning. Law enforcement use national origin, religious appearance, ethnicity, or race to decide who “looks” suspicious.
This can occur in questioning, stops, searches, or other police practices.
Is it Illegal?
One would think using race as a pretext to conduct stops or investigations without evidence would be illegal and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it is not.
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Whren v. the United States., 517 U.S. 806 (1996), that the actual motivations of police don’t matter.
For example, if they pull someone over for a minor traffic offense and observe drugs in the vehicle, they can search the car. The defendant will have to answer for the charges regardless of police motives.
It is against the law for police to discriminate against people based on race, national origin, or color – but in practice, racial profiling is alive and well. That’s why you must understand how and when it may be used against you.
What to Do If You’re Racially Profiled in NC
You can take action in several ways if you believe drug charges resulted from racial profiling.
First, you need to comprehend your rights in the situation.
Generally, you have the right to remain silent when being questioned by the police. Police can ask questions, but you are under no obligation to respond, according to the Constitution. You can’t be arrested simply for refusing to answer.
You are also guaranteed the Constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. If the police don’t have a warrant, they cannot search your office or home without your consent.
If you feel you’ve been the victim of racial profiling related to drug charges, speak with a lawyer.
But you should also look into filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The American Civil Liberties Union also has a Driver Profiling Complaint Form to fill out in cases of racially-motivated traffic stops.
Drug crimes do cause serious social issues, so efforts to end drug trafficking should continue. We should remember, however, that racial profiling isn’t the answer.