There has been a nationwide reckoning in recent years about how quickly interactions between police officers and citizens can escalate and become deadly. At the same time, there have also been calls to address racial disparities in policing, a problem backed by statistics as well as anecdotal evidence.
While these issues are systemic, complex and unable to be solved quickly, there are policy changes that could make a significant difference. One proposed solution would be to reduce the potential for interactions between citizens and police officers. Recently, a New Jersey lawmaker put forth a bill that would do just that.
According to news reports, one assemblymember introduced a bill that would all but end traffic stops for minor traffic infractions. The bill’s sponsor, who is also an Essex County sheriff’s deputy and African American, said that her bill would improve safety for both police and citizens and reduce racial disparities in traffic stops – a phenomenon commonly referred to as “driving while black.”
Most offenses would be cited without a traffic stop
If the bill were to pass, many traffic stops would be replaced by “contactless policing.” If you were caught speeding or had a broken taillight, for instance, you wouldn’t be pulled over. Instead, the alleged incident would be documented with photo or video evidence and you’d later receive a ticket in the mail. The ticket would be sent to the vehicle’s registered owner, who would be the presumed driver in the offense. If someone else was driving your car at the time, you would have to provide proof to that effect.
Police could still initiate traffic stops for certain offenses such as excessive speeding (more than 30 mph over the speed limit), drunk driving and other immediate safety threats.
Intended outcomes and unintended consequences
This bill’s overall goals are to reduce unnecessarily dangerous interactions between police and citizens and combat the problem of disproportionate traffic stops for minority drivers. At first glance, the measure seems like an effective way to achieve these goals.
That being said, new legislation always seems to bring some unintended consequences. It will be important to study whether “contactless policing” of traffic offenses makes it more difficult for drivers who get cited to contest the charges and maintain a clean driving record.
If you are facing criminal charges or even a traffic ticket after being pulled over by law enforcement, please don’t hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for skilled legal help.