Arrests Accompanied by Minor Traffic Violations

Many individuals arrested in Utah are first pulled over for avoidable traffic violations.

A felony with an infraction on the side

If someone makes a driving error in the presence of a police officer they will usually get pulled over and issued a warning or a ticket. Once stopped by police for a minor traffic violation, police may then find valid reasons to arrest the driver. Police booking reports around the state show a pattern of criminal charges accompanied by infractions from simple traffic stops. Some common examples seen include:

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• An individual arrested for a DUI while also being listed as having an infraction such as speeding.

• Someone charged with drug possession along with an infraction for not signaling while switching lanes or turning.

• A driver arrested for a weapons charge and a minor charge for no license plate light.

• Another person with warrants who is also charged with not fully stopping at a stop sign.

Happenstance or a planned stop

When someone is pulled over for a traffic stop, sometimes the officer has no idea the person was or is in the process of committing crimes likely to lead to an arrest. Other times however, the office may have a hunch about a driver and tails their car until they make a mistake, at which point the officer has a reason to pull them over to follow up on their gut feeling.

Possible profiling

If someone is followed by police prior to being pulled over for a traffic violation, it may feel unfair to the driver and depending on the circumstances, could be considered a form of profiling. Anyone facing criminal charges following a traffic stop is encouraged to seek legal counsel. If concerns arise regarding possible profiling or violations of constitutional rights, an experience defense attorney will know best how to handle the legal proceedings.

Racially Motivated Traffic Stops and Searches

The topic of racially motivated traffic stops has been up for debate national wide as well as in Utah, with many claiming drivers who are not of Caucasian decent are overly scrutinized while suffering through more search and seizures than other drivers.

Minorities and traffic stops

According to the Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics regarding traffic stops that resulted in searches, “a lower percentage of white drivers stopped by police in 2011 were searched (2%) than black (6%) or Hispanic (7%).“ While 6-7% of minorities beings searched to 2% of whites may not seem like enough of a spike to be considered excessively abnormal, it begins to raise eyebrows when one takes into account the total population of each race. In the year prior to the traffic stop statistics shared by the OJP, the 2010 census stated that:

• 72% of the U.S. population identified as being white alone;
• 28% identified as being Black, Hispanic, or another minority race.

6-7% of a lesser population of Americans being searched by police versus 2% or a larger population should be cause for concern.

Unbalanced prison population

Since research has shown that those of color or ethnic backgrounds face more scrutiny during traffic stops than whites who are the predominate race, it isn’t a surprise to know that the prison population is unbalanced rationally as well. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit non-partisan group that organizes statistical information on incarceration rates nationwide, in Utah jails and prisons in 2010:

• there were seven times more Black inmates than Whites;
• over twice as many Hispanics to whites; and
• four times more American Indian/Alaska Natives to Whites.

These numbers are even more alarming considering Utah is predominately white (78.8% white non-Hispanic).

Racial profiling defense

If the amount of traffic stops resulting in searches and seizures was not ethnically discriminatory, there is a good chance the racial divide of those incarcerated in Utah would even out as well. For those who wish to discuss charges attained following a traffic stops and search that could have been racially driven, contact a criminal defense attorney who is impartial to racial differences.