Racial Profiling Laws

Racial profiling is the expected belief that a person of a particular race is likely to commit particular crimes or act in a certain type of behavior.  Racial profiling is often committed by police officers, government agencies or those in the position of authority.  Racial profiling happens to individuals of all races, and all individuals should be aware of racial profiling law.

What is Racial Profiling?

Racial profiling occurs when someone (typically a law enforcement officer) spots an individual or group of individuals who are of a particular race, dress, religion, etc. and assumes that they are doing something illegal or wrong.  For instance, if a cop sees a group of African American boys walking down the street near a residential area and assumes they are dealing drugs, and stops to check them for paraphernalia, but finds nothing – he has committed racial profiling.

Similarly, if a police officer sees a truck full of white men in a predominantly African American neighborhood at night and thinks that the men are there to start trouble or cause trouble, and pulls them over – he has also committed racial profiling.

Laws against Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is against the law in many states.  However, some states do not have a ban on racial profiling and other states have limited laws in place.  Currently, these states restrict racial profiling against motorists and pedestrians:

  • Washington
  • California
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • Florida

The states that have laws against racial profiling for motorists only:

  • Nevada
  • Alaska
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland

There are states with no racial profiling ban in place at all.

Legal Help

Individuals who feel that they have been victims of racial profiling can take action.  There are several ways that one can seek justice for the crime of racial profiling.

Department of Justice

One should contact the Department of Justice right away and file a complaint.  One can file a complaint at:

Civil Rights Division - 202-514-460 (Voice) - 202-514-0716 (TDD)

While the investigation may take some time to get under way, it is quite important that one doesn’t let anyone get away with racial profiling.  Explain to the representative exactly what has happened.  Give them the names of all involved as well as any witnesses that were present.

Civil Rights Attorney

Individuals in some states have the right to sue those who have committed racial profiling against them.  The first step should be to contact a qualified attorney in order to receive advice about what has happened.  The attorney can help you understand whether your claim is valid or not and how to proceed with the legal recourse.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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