Walking Without a Driver’s License Is Not a Crime: Beware of Abusive Traffic Stops on Pedestrians
No one likes to get pulled over while driving. The best-case scenario is that it just makes you take longer than normal to get where you are going. If you are not so lucky, you could end up with a traffic ticket. The worst-case scenario, though, is that you end up in a mess of financial and legal trouble. Many drug possession arrests begin as routine traffic stops.
Did you know that it is possible for traffic cops to stop you even if you are not driving? Traffic laws also apply to pedestrians and bicyclists, so it is possible for the police to give you a ticket for jaywalking, for example. A recent article in ProPublica discussed the trends in traffic citations for pedestrians in Jacksonville, Florida. The authors, Topher Sanders, Kate Rabinowitz, and Benjamin Conarck, concluded that Jacksonville police disproportionately stopped African-Americans in poor areas of the city for pedestrian violations. In many cases, these stops were tantamount to harassment; they were little more than stopping someone because he “looked suspicious.”
Highlights of the “Walking While Black” Article
The authors of the ProPublica article studied five years of data on pedestrian traffic stops and listed many examples of people whom police had stopped and, in some cases arrested, simply for walking in Jacksonville. Here are just some examples:
- Devonte Shipman used his cell phone to record a video of a Jacksonville police officer stopping him for jaywalking. In the video, the officer says in so many words that he stopped Shipman specifically in order to search him for weapons; the jaywalking was just a pretext, and the officer admitted this. He also said that he could arrest Shipman for not having a driver’s license or other government-issued ID with him. In fact, there is no legal requirement to carry your driver’s license with you, unless you are driving.
- The authors found record of six instances of traffic tickets issued to pedestrians for failing to carry a photo ID. Two of them had paid the tickets, and the other four were still pending. It appears that none of the recipients challenged the tickets.
- When police stopped Bobby Wingate for a pedestrian violation, he immediately called 911 to report the unfair traffic stop. The officer who stopped him eventually charged him with resisting arrest. A court eventually awarded Wingate $9,500 and cancelled his ticket and his arrest, but it did not require the city to admit wrongdoing.
- Many of the recipients of pedestrian traffic tickets cannot afford to pay their tickets or to challenge them. The tickets are often referred to collection agencies, leading to even bigger financial problems for people who were literally ticketed for walking.
Having Legal Representation Can Make a Difference
If you think that the police were unjustified in stopping you for a pedestrian violation or other traffic violation, perhaps they were. An attorney can help you present your case in court. Contact Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, Florida for a legal consultation.