Criminal Justice

'Parking while black' at issue in pending 7th Circuit appeal

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A case pending in the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could give the green light to police who want to use parking infractions as a justification for car searches.

The case pending before the en banc court could legitimize cases of so-called “parking while black,” according to a Slate article by Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman.

A 7th Circuit panel ruled (PDF) 2-1 in May that police officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when Milwaukee police drove two squad cars to the side and behind a car parked too close to the crosswalk, shined a light inside, and saw a back seat passenger try to hide a gun. The passenger, who had a felony record, was charged with illegally possessing the gun.

The panel decision has been vacated and the case will be reargued before the full court.

Gershman says the case, United States v. Johnson, is an “egregious instances of police aggressively targeting black motorists who may be illegally parked.”

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