Routine traffic stops can escalate into complicated situations. An allegation of racial profiling may ensue, as it has in a lawsuit filed against by an African-American woman against the City of Fort Worth. Cases such as this meld constitutional protections, federal and state law and police policies. All those legal concepts will impact significantly vehicle operator when accosted by an officer in your car who could be subject to racial profiling.
Driver asserts violation of federal law and Fourth Amendment
After the officer informed the driver the reason for the stop – exceeding the speed limit -, she informed him that she had a legal gun in the vehicle. Having called 911 to express her discomfort, she agrees to step out of the car as requested (to distance her from the gun) only when another officer arrives. Body camera footage shows the officer unbuckle her seat belt and remove her from the vehicle and leave her handcuffed in the police car for 17 minutes before releasing her with a ticket that was later dismissed.
Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, the plaintiff will have to demonstrate injury from a “policy or custom” of the city, such as deliberate indifference. Fort Worth has, in compliance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, has adopted a written policy on racial profiling. The department suspended the officer for 30 days without pay after it concluded he did not follow procedures of de-escalation and hand-traffic arrests, among others.
Fourth Amendment protections exist that will contribute to the case, as the plaintiff has also alleged unlawful seizure for having been placed in the police car. The standard for intrusion, reasonable suspicion, requires merely an objective suspicion based on the individual circumstances, regardless of race. The interpretation and application of a long history of cases may lie against the specific facts of the plaintiff’s claim.
Texas residents protected from potential profiling
The Constitution, federal government and Texas have codified and adjudicated racial profiling as the issue has expanded. Regardless of the particular situation, these protections always remain available to those who may have experienced unnecessary and illegal search and seizure. An experienced attorney with a solid foundation of your rights in these situations may benefit you.