Racial Profiling Concerns Cause the Minnesota House To Reject Seat Belt Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Minnesota
April 10, 2008 12:00 am

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A House and Senate conference committee brought the 2008 Transportation Policy bill to the House Floor yesterday with a provision that would have allowed police to pull over any car whose occupants were not wearing their seat belts.

On the floor, Representative Frank Moe of Bemidji read a letter from the ACLU’s Audrey Thayer (Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project) expressing strong civil liberty concerns about this portion of the bill. Ms. Thayer stated, “I am opposed to the passing of allowing law officers to pull over vehicles if they are not wearing seat belts. This will create more profiling in your district and make it legal with the passing of that provision. . . . Profiling of Indians is still continuing by officers. The ACLU-MN has a difficult time arguing the case when the officer has just another legal reason to pull over a vehicle.”

Other representatives joined with Representative Moe to oppose the seat belt language in order to protect individual liberties. On a 72 to 62 vote, the Minnesota House voted to send the bill back to conference committee because of the seat belt provision.

In a statement to the press, ACLU-MN Executive Director Charles Samuelson said, “Without clear protections against racial profiling in this bill, the ACLU is concerned that making seat belt use a primary offense would increase the number of people of color who are stopped and searched.”

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