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Racial profiling could improve traffic ticket defense

Nearly five years ago, South Carolina's Highway Patrol system was uprooted because of racial profiling complaints, but locals still theorize that the profiling persists. Newly released information from a January traffic stop could add credence to the supposed profiling tactics, a move that could improve criminal defense for those who are accused of traffic violations.

The profiling allegations stem from a January traffic stop that involved the patrol's internal affairs chief. The patrol employee said he thought the traffic stop was racially motivated. He was handcuffed and nearly arrested on suspicion of DUI until he passed all roadside sobriety tests. The internal affairs chief is responsible for investigating complaints against the patrol, including those involving racial profiling.

Even more astonishing is the fact that the man was fired on the same day as his traffic stop. The man's supervisors claim that his behavior during the stop was unacceptable, but the chief reports that he was simply attempting to address racial profiling problems by drawing attention to his own plight. The man said he was victimized by the racial profiling culture that he was attempting to squelch within the department.

Other victims have reported similar treatment from state troopers. One woman's speeding case was ramped up to a felony charge when she openly alleged that a trooper had pulled her over because of her race. The woman, who holds a doctorate, argued her arrest with the trooper because she thought the traffic stop was racially motivated. Car cameras show the woman and her husband complying with the officer's directions, but she was charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. Her husband faces charges for interfering with the arrest.

Less than two months after that traffic stop, the charges were dropped by the local prosecutor because they did not have merit.

People who have been unfairly charged because of racial profiling should mention their concerns to their attorneys. This systematic racial discrimination could affect the outcome of many traffic violations in the state.

Source: WISTV, "Investigating allegations of racial profiling by Highway Patrol officers," Jody Barr, Feb. 28, 2013

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