Washington Journal of Social & Environmental Justice


Racist and brutal policing continues to pervade the criminal legal system. Black and brown people who interact with the police consistently face unequal targeting and treatment. Routine traffic stops are especially dangerous and harmful and can lead to death. Under Whren, a police officer’s racist motivations or implicit bias towards a driver do not influence the constitutionality of a traffic stop. An officer only needs to show there was probable cause to believe a traffic stop occurred. Although the unconstitutionality of pre-textual traffic stops has been widely explored since Whren, both federal and state courts have struggled to find legal solutions that fight back against a doctrine that fails to protect minority drivers. This note explores those failed solutions and argues that state courts have a legal obligation to both ease the burden of proving an equal protection violation and recognize the exclusionary rule as a remedy for those violations. As long as Whren is good law, state courts must get creative in the fight against racist policing and the selective prosecution of traffic laws.