Everyone has heard of racial profiling. It is the process of using a person’s race or ethnicity when determining if they are a suspect for committing a crime. While racial profiling has been used aggressively by some police departments in the past and has made the news, it is actually only one type of bias-based profiling. Similar methods of profiling can use a person’s religion, economic status, age, culture, gender, and sexual orientation in determining if it is likely that a person has committed or intends to commit a crime. These methods all lack a scientific basis or factual support and lead to discriminatory actions by law enforcement. That is why the Sarasota Police Department has a specific policy against bias-based profiling.

If you were arrested due to an inherent characteristic such as your race, ethnicity, or religion, you should immediately contact a Sarasota criminal defense lawyer at Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A.. Erika Valcarcel understands Sarasota’s bias-based profiling policy and can evaluate your situation.

Call today at (941) 363-7900 to find out how attorney Valcarcel can help.

What is Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling, also known as offender profiling, is by itself a crucial tool used by local, state, and federal law enforcement to identify suspects. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is well known for using profiling to solve cases. Highly educated and trained psychologists and psychiatrists work with law enforcement agents to derive plausible personal characteristics of suspects from the details of crimes. Some law enforcement agencies have seen great success by working with trained professionals who can narrow down likely characteristics like sex, gender, age, race, geographic location, level of education, careers, and typical behaviors. However, while this is one tool at law enforcement’s disposal, it is not the only way to investigate a crime, determine suspects, and arrest an offender.

Bias-Based Profiling is Not Proper Criminal Profiling

Criminal profiling is a process of determining a probable pool of suspects based on true and authenticated details of a crime that has already been committed. This process helps police officers know where to look, but cannot single out one specific person. It is crucial to understand that bias-based profiling is not the same as criminal profiling.

When law enforcement officers use a generic, overly broad profile of who seems to commit certain types of crimes most often, or if officers ignore certain aspects of a profile and concentrate only a specific inherent characteristic of a potential suspect, they are likely to discriminate against a specific group of people. For example, a profile that states a robbery was likely committed by a black male in his early to mid-20s is too broad and unlikely to be based on the specifics of one robbery. Instead, this is a profile based on race and age, which would create an extremely large pool of suspects in many locations. True criminal profiling is not a broad guess at who an offender might be.

When the Police Can Stop You

What is most important is that an officer must have reasonable suspicion to stop and detain a person. Reasonable suspicion is actually a specific legal standard that states an officer must have valid facts that lead them to believe an individual committed a crime, is currently committing a crime, or intends to commit a crime. This standard does not require evidence like during a criminal trial, yet it needs more than a gut feeling or unsubstantiated suspicion. An officer must be able to describe the circumstances that led them to suspect a person of a crime.

Police officers cannot stop someone solely due to their race, ethnicity, or another characteristic. However, it is not uncommon for one of these features to be part of a profile and reason for a stop. If the police have a report that a white female driver around 30 years old was seen leaving the scene of a drunk driving accident, then the police will rightly look for an inebriated white woman around 30 years old.

Contact a Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

Most law enforcement officers understand that bias-based profiling is wrong and illegal. However, bias is a real issue across the country and Florida’s law enforcement community is not immune. There are times when police officers target people of certain races, ethnicities, and religions with little other evidence. When biased-based profiling leads to an arrest and charges, a defendant can use evidence of discriminatory profiling in their defense. An illegal stop, such as one that occurred without the necessary facts to amount to reasonable suspicion, may get thrown out of court. However, it will take an experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorney to gather the necessary evidence and make a compelling argument in court to have the charges dropped.

Call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today at (941) 363-7900 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and learn more.

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