False Arrest Due to Racial Profiling

To say that race is a contentious issue in our society is a gross understatement. There are numerous federal and state laws passed with the intent to protect people who find themselves in situations in which race is a relevant but unfair factor. Racial profiling continues to exist despite the protections guaranteed by law.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to collect racial data to deter racial profiling, it is the only way to measure how often it occurs. The Pennsylvania State Police collected data regarding the race of those stopped by officers from 2002 through 2012. A study of that data showed that officers were two to three times more likely to conduct a search of black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers, although white drivers were more likely to be concealing contraband. The State Police began collecting racial data again in 2019 because only through the data can evidence of racial profiling be discovered.

If you believe your rights have been violated during a false arrest based on racial profiling, my firm — Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. — may be able to help. I represent victims of racial profiling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, Oakmont Borough, and Shaler, Ross, O’Hara, and Indiana Townships.

What Cause is Necessary for an Arrest?

Law enforcement cannot arrest someone on a hunch or suspicion, or because they do not like the person, or because of a person’s race. They must have probable cause to do so, requiring enough evidence to believe someone has committed a crime without the need to meet the burden of proof that will be required to convict them.

Law enforcement is not the arbiter of what does and does not constitute probable cause. A judge is the one who renders that decision, either by issuing a search warrant or weighing the evidence of probable cause against a defendant in court.

Arresting someone with no probable cause is a violation of their civil rights guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment protects individuals from unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, and unlawful detention. A false arrest based on racial profiling and no legal authority, such as probable cause, is a violation of your rights.

What is Racial Profiling?

Racial profiling is a discriminatory practice used by law enforcement to levy suspicion of the commission of crimes against individuals based solely on their race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. For example, a store owner tells a police officer that a black man just stole a cell phone from his store. There is no other description other than the alleged thief’s race. The police officer sees a black man walking down the street talking on a cell phone and arrests the man with no evidence other than the man’s race.

Racial profiling includes not only acts of discrimination, but omissions as well. For example, during a demonstration of a white supremacy group, a law enforcement officer does not protect an elderly black man who gets off the bus at his stop and is a victim of harassment by the demonstrators.

How to File a Civil Rights Claim

Officers who make false arrests based on racial profiling can be held legally liable by the victims filing Section 1983 civil rights claims. Section 1983 allows recourse against officers acting in their official capacity, whether they are on duty or not, who violate a person’s civil rights.

If successful in your civil rights claim, the court may issue an injunction that could result in the officer’s firing, demotion, retraining, or a revision of the department’s policies and procedures. You may also be able to recover damages if you suffered losses as a result of your arrest. For example, you may recover compensation for medical expenses if you were injured or for the income you lost while you were detained, recovering from your injuries, or if you were fired from your job because of your arrest.

A jury may also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish wrongdoers and discourage their racial profiling behavior from ever occurring again.

At the same time, a criminal defense attorney may need to defend you against charges resulting from the false arrest. If you were indeed violating the law when arrested, although the arrest itself violated your civil rights, the prosecuting attorney may nonetheless pursue a conviction against you. If the officer lacked probable cause, however, your attorney can ask the court to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of a false arrest.  

Work with an Experienced Attorney

Everyone, regardless of their race or any other factor, is entitled to the rights guaranteed to them under the law. When those rights are violated, my firm — Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. — will zealously defend them. I have been defending the rights of victims of racial profiling in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, Oakmont Borough, and Shaler, Ross, O’Hara, and Indiana Townships for more than a decade. If your rights have been violated, call my office now.


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