Everyone engages in profiling. When we purchase a car or a home, we seek particular traits and qualities in that car or home. But if you are charged with a crime on the basis of racial profiling, you need to speak to an Orange County criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.
If you’ve ever been pulled over by a police officer and cited for a broken windshield wiper or a broken headlight, it is probably because your vehicle fit the “profile” for vehicles that pose a threat to the public’s safety.
But there is a big difference between that type of profiling and the “racial” profiling that some law enforcement officers and police departments engage in. Because of racial profiling, people have sometimes been convicted of criminal acts that they did not commit.
What Can You Do if You’ve Been Racially Profiled?
Could you be wrongly charged because of racial profiling? If that happens, what steps can you take to defend yourself? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers, and you will also learn more about your rights if you are wrongly charged with a crime in southern California.
Racial profiling occurs somewhere every day. People with Hispanic names are suspected of being “illegal.” Black consumers are scrutinized by store detectives. There may be no “direct” harm, but racial profiling indirectly undermines law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Is Racial Profiling Illegal?
The most serious – and illegal – racial profiling happens when the police make an assumption about a person based on that person’s ethnicity or race. California law expressly prohibits racial profiling. The law says, “A law enforcement officer shall not engage in racial profiling.”
California law also now requires enhanced police officer training and data collection efforts to deter racial profiling.
Yet racial profiling is still happening in Orange County and throughout the state despite the many laws against it and the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment for all. Racial profiling is always wrong, but if it occurs in the criminal justice system, the consequences can be grim.
When the police engage in racial profiling, suspicion and resentment of the police increases. Racial profiling destroys trust between law enforcement agencies and the neighborhoods they serve, undermining public safety.
How Does Racial Profiling Happen?
A “stop and frisk” or even a traffic stop for a broken headlight can escalate into an arrest and conviction – and in many cases, as we all know in 2020, racially profiled suspects have been shot by law enforcement officers or have died in police custody.
One typical scenario involves stopping someone in traffic for the flimsiest of reasons – “erratic driving,” for instance. The police then use that excuse to justify a search of the vehicle, hoping to find evidence that justifies the traffic stop – illegal firearms or drugs, for example.
In another common scenario, someone merely walking or standing on a sidewalk may be harassed and/or aggressively interrogated by police officers in order to provide the basis for a search or for a trumped-up disorderly conduct or resisting arrest charge.
What Have the Courts Determined?
The practice of racial profiling raises constitutional questions regarding your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and your Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
The courts have generally held that racial profiling violates the Constitution and cannot be used as a pretext for a “Terry stop.”
(A Terry stop lets the police briefly detain someone based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, a lower standard than the “probable cause” needed to make an arrest.)
The police also cannot engage in racial profiling by using the excuse that they detained a suspect because he or she was in a “high crime area.”
Is Racial Profiling an Effective Defense in a Criminal Case?
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that under the Fourteenth Amendment, a law enforcement officer cannot be deemed guilty of racial profiling without tangible evidence of actual discriminatory intent on the part of the officer.
That makes it more difficult – but not necessarily impossible – for a good defense attorney to argue that a criminal defendant was targeted by racial profiling and would not otherwise have been charged with a crime.
Has Racial Profiling Led to Your Arrest?
Should you be taken into police custody and charged with a crime in Orange County or elsewhere in southern California, and should you believe the arrest and charge are based primarily on racial profiling, what recourse do you have?
Discuss your rights promptly with a southern California criminal defense lawyer. If the police violate your rights in a traffic stop, search, arrest, or interrogation, it is possible the charge can be reduced or dismissed – but it will take a good defense attorney to advocate on your behalf.
A conviction for any crime can have serious consequences for your freedom and future. If you’re charged with any crime in southern California, whether or not racial profiling played a role, the right Orange County defense lawyer will protect your rights and defend you against the charge.
How Will a Defense Attorney Help You?
Your lawyer will review the charge and the state’s case against you. If the charge can’t be dropped or dismissed, your lawyer may recommend either negotiating a plea bargain or taking your case to trial, explaining to a jury what happened, and asking that jury to find you not guilty.
If you believe you were arrested and charged because of racial profiling, your attorney may review the police officer’s record to find if the officer has been suspected of racial discrimination or profiling in the past. That kind of evidence will strengthen a racial profiling defense.
Additionally, your California defense attorney will examine the state’s evidence, question any eyewitnesses, and develop an effective defense strategy that will protect your legal rights.
Protect Your Future and Exercise Your Rights
But if you are in fact guilty as charged and the state’s case against you is persuasive, your defense lawyer may recommend taking a plea deal that will let you enter a guilty plea to a lesser charge. In such a case, your defense attorney will also seek alternative or reduced sentencing.
The victims of racial profiling have the right to sue for damages or injunctive relief under federal or state law. But if you are charged with a crime on the basis of racial profiling, it is imperative to contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney immediately. Your future will be at stake.