Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban police from pulling over people for minor offenses in an attempt to reduce racial profiling in the state.
The proposal would eliminate what are called pretextual traffic stops — stops for minor offenses that can become an investigation into something else. The proposal would decrease offenses like not wearing seat belts, having expired registrations or inspections, or having faulty plate lights.
Police and other critics of the proposal testified last week at a Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hearing and said that if certain offenses become a low priority, it would make the roads more dangerous, increasing crashes, the Portland Press Herald reported Sunday.
The Maine Medical Association and the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety said they opposed the bill because reducing the severity of seat belts violations could possibly encourage people to stop wearing them.
But the proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Victoria Morales of South Portland, stated that it is possible to implement an amendment to the bill to address public safety concerns about seat belts and child safety violations. She also said that she hopes to work with the Maine State Police on the proposal.
Morales said the bill, which was scheduled for a work session Monday, is intended to protect the rights of drivers, especially some people of color who do not feel safe behind the wheel.
If the bill becomes law, drivers can still be cited for traffic violations but it cannot be the sole reason for the traffic stop, the newspaper said.