Must I pay a ticket for not answering the officer's racially motivated questions?

Question:

I was recently stopped, ostensibly for speeding on a state route. The officer, in the course of giving me a citation, questioned me about why I was in the area, where I was going, what business I had, and who I knew. I believe his real motivation was a racial profile stop. Do I have recourse after being cited an additional ticket because of my refusal to answer his questions?

Answer:

Police have the right to make a traffic stop if you are committing a traffic offense or other crime, no matter how trivial -- and this is true even though the real motivation of the police may be to intimidate you or subtly heckle you.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if such traffic stops are based on race, then it is possible that you were denied your right to equal protection under the law, and you might have a claim on that basis. The name of the 1996 case that sets out this decision is Whren v. United States. (Google the case name to read the text of the decision.)

The trouble is, it may be impractical to win a case like this, due to the high cost of legal fees. However, there is a chance that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) may be interested in championing your cause. Find out more about the ACLU's activism around this issue at www.aclu.org/racial-justice.

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