Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New seatbelt law may facilitate racial profiling in Arkansas. Pass a REAL helmet law instead

Seatbelts are important. But I don't get nervous knowing other motorists aren't wearing a seatbelt. However, a person on a motorized bike, scooter, 3-wheeler, 4-wheeler, or golf cart or any such vehicle or motorcycle without a helmet are suicidal and cause me to slow down and worry more about having to see that person die more than about my own driving. How about making wearing no helmet a "primary violation" for anyone on a public street or road in the state? That might be protested as violating the rights of the suicidal or of those lacking common sense, I suppose.
LTE's and calls needed. Seat belt laws leads to more racial profiling in Ark.‏
From: L. woodall (
Sent: Wed 2/25/09 5:36 PM
To: Dick Bennet (
(Wendell Griffen is a former Appeals Court judge in Ark. Please call your legislators and ask that this piece of legislation (SB 78) be amended. The likely result will be racial profiling using this proposed law. Would you write an LTE
to your local newspaper? Please. We already have enough of the police state from Bush. LW

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Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Fellow Advocates for Public Safety and Fairness:

I am writing to ask you to call on members of the Arkansas House of Representatives to improve a bill currently pending in that body that would make failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense (meaning that motorists can be stopped by law enforcement officers on that basis alone in Arkansas if the bill is enacted). The newspaper article shown at the following link describes the measure, which received a "do pass" recommendation yesterday in the Public Transportation Committee of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Click here: Bill for seat-belt stops by police wins vote; passage up to House

The language that I am asking you to urge legislators to add to Senate Bill 78 is: "Violation of the primary seat belt law shall not constitute reasonable suspicion for a search and seizure."

If there is any question about whether racial profiling occurs by police in Arkansas--despite the hearing testimony yesterday that only 2 complaints were lodged with the State Police in recent years--one should study the opinions issued in Martin Hinojosa v. State, decided by the Arkansas Court of Appeals on November 29, 2008. Here is a link to that decision:

No one can deny that seat belts save lives and reduce the prospect for injuries when worn. I support efforts to improve highway safety in Arkansas by requiring motorists to wear seat belts. However, by making failure to wear seat belts a primary offense without including any protection against using traffic stops made on that basis from the risk of abuse, our legislators will expose all motorists to a greater risk of improper traffic stops that will risk further targeting women and persons of color, and also include stops in numerous other scenarios. Consider the following realities:
No one can determine from ground level whether drivers of tractor-trailer rigs are wearing seat belts without first stopping those drivers.
No one can determine whether drivers of older vehicles that are equipped only with lap belts are wearing them without first stopping those drivers.
No one can determine whether passengers seated in the rear of vehicles, or in seats other than the front of passenger and minivans, are wearing their seat belts without first stopping those vehicles.
No one can ever determine whether any motorists are wearing seat belts during nighttime without first stopping the motorists.
No one can determine whether motorists in vehicles with tinted windows are wearing seat belts without first stopping them.
No one can determine whether motorists dressed in clothing that matches the color or pattern of their seat belts are wearing the belts without first stopping them.
Passage of Senate Bill 78 will allow law enforcement officials to stop all of these motorists on Arkansas roadways at any time based on that factor alone. After the motorists are stopped, Senate Bill 78 contains no protection against the traffic stops from operating as a gateway for law enforcement officers to engage in search and seizure tactics.

People who do not wear their seat belts are not more likely to be engaged in other violations of the law than others so as to justify being subjected to searches and seizures because they do not wear their seat belts. Therefore, the language I have suggested will protect those motorists from being subjected to searches and seizures based solely on violation of the primary seat belt law. It will not hinder law enforcement from enforcing the primary seat belt law. It will not make compliance with the primary seat belt law more difficult. It merely provides a reasonable check on the way the law will operate in order to lessen the chance for it being used in oppressive ways.

Please understand that I do not oppose and am not trying to prevent passage of a primary seat belt law in Arkansas. However, any such law can and should include explicit protection against improper and oppressive enforcement efforts. Public safety and even-handed law enforcement practices are not conflicting or incompatible interests. Rather, we should encourage people to wear seat belts while protecting them from over-bearing or discriminatory law enforcement tactics.

For these reasons, I ask you to join me in urging the Arkansas House of Representatives to amend SB 78 by adding explicit language stating that violation of the primary seat belt law shall not constitute reasonable suspicion for a search and seizure. The ACLU of Arkansas and the Arkansas NAACP support such a change, as their representatives testified yesterday before the Public Transportation Committee. Adding that language will not undermine the safety benefits of a primary seat belt law. It will simply make that law less susceptible for abuse by those law enforcement agents who may be inclined to engage in unlawful or over-zealous tactics.

Thanks for taking time to read this message and for your help. Stay strong.

Wendell Griffen
Griffen Strategic Consulting, PLLC
P.O. Box 17268
Little Rock, Arkansas 72222-7268
(501) 416-1917

323 Center Street
Suite 1312
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 374-5949
(501) 374-5993 (fax)

We will either find a way or make one. Hannibal of Carthage.


Anonymous said...

Typical liberal stupidity.

It requires astonishing creativity to support liberal minded beliefs.

Ever notice?

Anonymous said...

God says world to end tonight.

Larry and Aubrey say:
Poor and Minorities most affected.

We sure have some freaks in Fayetteville.

Only 2% of Obama voters were familiar with the issues according to Zogby.