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Are Police Fair to People with Disabilities During Traffic Stops?

Many times, police officers go out of their way to be courteous and respectful to people with disabilities during traffic stops. Other times, however, ignorance, nervousness, confusion or simple apathy can cause officers to behave badly and treat people with disabilities unfairly.

However, what you perceive as illegal might not actually be. For example, suppose you are deaf, and an officer pulled you over for speeding or running a red light. You want an ASL interpreter, but the officer is probably not violating anything by writing you a note explaining what you are said to have done and then ticketing you. It is a good idea to ask an attorney if you think your disability may have played a role in an officer ticketing you or arresting you.

What they know

Sometimes, police officers do not know you have a disability and react with the little knowledge they have. For example, if your speech is slurred and your hands trembling, the officer might suspect you are drunk and might arrest you on a DUI charge when you, in fact, have a neurological condition. Sometimes, explaining this to the officer helps. At the very least, the officer should skip giving you field sobriety tests and opt for field breath tests instead. Of course, under any circumstances, you have the right to refuse to take field sobriety tests. If you have autism, perhaps making eye contact and having someone touch you is difficult for you. A police officer might take this behavior as a bad attitude on your part and arrest you.

The bottom line is that it can be stressful and frustrating to have to disclose your disability, but without that information, a police officer may make erroneous judgments. Unfortunately, some police officers, even knowing this information, do not go on to treat people with disabilities well, whether these people are adults or minors. Still, full disclosure should hopefully help rather than hurt.

Proactive measures

Some people with disabilities use proactive measures to make any interactions with police go more smoothly. For example, someone with autism might have a note card ready to hand to police explaining how autism affects his or her behavior. Whatever the situation is, everyone deserves fair treatment from the police.

If you have been arrested, you should keep in mind this important fact: Every criminal charge has defenses. Consult with a criminal defense attorney to learn about your defense options.