You’ve probably heard the phrase “driving while black” or a “DWB.” It’s code used among people of color for being pulled over by the police for a bogus traffic violation. The driver knows that the traffic violation is so slight or utterly fabricated and that he or she has been targeted purely because of his or her skin color.
Racial bias in traffic stops is nothing new — and it plays heavily into the problems people of color face with asset seizure, particularly if they happen to be carrying cash. Despite a lot of lip service being paid to ending racial profiling in traffic stops, two new studies indicate that the practice is still robust.
A Missouri report indicates that black drivers are an incredible 91% more likely to be pulled over for traffic violations than white drivers — even when they’re driving in their own communities.
This report echoes a Kentucky report that showed that black motorists are subjected to invasive searches of their vehicles three times more often than whites in the Louisville area. Even though blacks represent 20% of the areas drivers, they represent 33% of traffic stops and 57% of the vehicle searches police ultimately perform.
So, are black people just bad drivers? Is that why they’re getting pulled over and their cars are being searched more often than whites?
The “War on Drugs” that engendered the whole civil asset forfeiture program has always had a disparate impact on people of color. Given that the “signs” of possible drug activity police can use include things like “trash on the floor of the vehicle” and “energy drink cans” in the car, there’s very little the police can’t use to say that they suspect that a driver was carrying cash in order to make a drug deal.
In practical terms, for black drivers, that means a traffic stop can empty their wallets — even if they are never actually given a ticket or charged with a crime. The police officer can simply seize the cash they find in the driver’s possession, say it looks suspiciously like money intended for a drug deal, and walk off.
If you’ve been the victim of racial profiling and cash seizures, fight back. Find out more about your legal rights today.