Police who stop motorists for traffic violations may not ask to search the car or question the driver and passengers about unrelated things such as illegal weapons or drugs without a reasonable suspicion that another crime is being committed, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
Relying on protections in the state Constitution, the ruling expands protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, which has been interpreted to allow police to ask for searches while acknowledging that motorists can refuse, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Defense attorneys called the ruling a major strike against racial profiling. They argue that people of color are questioned and asked for searches more often than others during routine traffic stops, even if police have no particular reason. “That’s going to stop as of today,” said Leonardo Castro, chief public defender in Hennepin County.
“Law enforcement’s going to have to take a hard look at it,” said state Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek. He said there is no evidence that racial profiling takes place in Minnesota. As a state legislator from Maple Grove, Stanek worked on legislation that encouraged agencies to collect racial profiling data. That information is being analyzed, he said.