What makes a police officer suspect that a driver might be hauling drugs somewhere in his or her vehicle? Is it the type of car? The age or condition of the vehicle? The driver's shifty eyes and nervous attitude?
No, it's probably the color of their skin.
Here are some interesting things to think about before you head out on the road in Texas, courtesy of a report on racial profiling in 2018 provided by the Austin Police Department:
1. White people get pulled over the most.
The largest percentage of people -- 47% -- pulled over for traffic violations near and in Austin during the year were white.
- Ultimately, officers conducted searches on only 6% of those drivers' vehicles.
- That represents 29.5% of all vehicle searches performed looking for drug possession or trafficking.
2. Black drivers get searched at about the same rate as whites.
However, before you think this sounds like good news, consider this:
- Only 15% of traffic stops involve black drivers -- even though searches of their vehicles for drugs make up 24.5% of all police searches.
- The odds of a black driver having his or her car searched after a traffic stop is about 17% -- almost three times that of white drivers.
3. Hispanic drivers fare badly all the way around.
If you're a Hispanic driver, your risk of being pulled over, at 33%, is only slightly less than that of a white driver. However:
- Your odds of being subjected to a search of your vehicle are 14%, which is less than a black driver's odds but more than double that of a white driver's odds.
- Altogether, searches of Hispanic vehicles made up 43.9% of all police vehicle searches in 2018 -- far greater than the percentage of searches done on cars belonging to either black or white drivers.
What did the state's expert on racial profiling say about the issue? That it "signifies good police work" since contraband is found 30% of the time on Hispanic drivers, 31% of the time on black drivers and 27% of the time on whites.
If you think about all that information carefully, you can understand why it can be legally dangerous to be a person of color behind the wheel of a car. If you're charged with a drug crime, especially trafficking, seek legal help right away.