An Arizona official told the state Supreme Court yesterday that law enforcement officers could pull over motorists because of their race without violating their constitutional rights. The argument stunned the justices and led to a statement from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office denouncing racial profiling, the Arizona Republic reports. At issue is whether evidence could be thrown out of court if it arises from a traffic stop based on racial profiling. A lower court judge ruled that it cannot be thrown out.
The attorney representing the state told the court yesterday that targeting minorities for traffic stops can’t be considered racial profiling unless the motorists are also ticketed. “What is the traffic infraction involved in being black?” Justice Rebecca White Berch asked Assistant Attorney General Cari McConeghy-Harris. “The stop itself does not implicate any law,” McConeghy-Harris responded, adding that if the officer did not write a ticket, constitutional rights would not be infringed. The Attorney General’s office later asserted that its argument “does not in any way condone racial profiling.” The Attorney General argued that an allegation of racial profiling does not justify dismissing a case or excluding evidence as long as police had a sufficient legal basis for the stop. “If you pull someone over unconstitutionally because they’re Black and you discover evidence of a crime, said law Prof. Paul Bender of Arizona State University. “I would think that’s inadmissible because it’s the result of an unconstitutional search.”