May 5, 2005
Arizona Voids Race-Based Traffic Stops
The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that race-based traffic stops may give rise to a defense to criminal charges arising therefrom. The case involved an appeal of the refusal of the trial court to appoint an expert witness who allegedly would have shown a race-based pattern of traffic stops in the county. The trial judge held that under Whren, "selective enforcement of traffic laws was not a defense to the drug offenses for which the defendants were charged." The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that while discrimination might not be a Fourth Amendment problem, it was a Fourteenth Amendment problem. On appeal, the state did not deny this, but contended "however, that proof of selective enforcement of traffic laws is not a defense to a criminal charge, but rather entitles injured parties only to civil redress." Either the Supreme Court unfairly characterized the state's argument or the state's copy of United States Reports didn't have Yick Wo v. Hopkins in it; in any event, the Court unanimously rejected the argument. The Court cited this article by Penn CrimProf Paul Robinson. Opinion here, story here. [Jack Chin].
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