Like other large cities, Philadelphia has dealt with tension between police and the community for decades. A new ban on minor traffic stops may reduce the pressure — or, at the very least, result in fewer arrests.

However, voices across the city have extended support and criticism for the ban. So, what should the average Philadelphia resident believe? Are we in for some positive change, or will things stay more or less the same?

Philadelphia Passes The Driving Equity Act

After Mayor Kenney signed the Driving Equity Act into law, Philadelphia became the first major city to ban traffic stops for minor infractions in the United States. But where did such monumental legislation come from?

Philadelphia Council Member Isaiah Thomas drafted the law after a traffic stop that impacted him. But he said the act came from a lifetime of living as a black man in Philadelphia.

Multiple studies suggest that Black drivers are more likely than other motorists to be pulled over for minor infractions. Speaking with NPR News, Thomas said that this apparent bias was a major source of inspiration for the new legislation.

What’s The Goal of the Ban?

The Driving Equity Act goes into effect at the beginning of 2022. But what will change on Philly’s streets? The most obvious impact, Police will no longer be able to stop drivers for the following violations:

  • Having no emissions or inspection sticker
  • Having a broken taillight
  • Having a broken headlight
  • Failing to display, fasten, or make visible your vehicle’s registration
  • Having a minor obstruction of your vision while driving

To be clear, you can still get a ticket for these violations. But police won’t be able to stop you for them in Philadelphia. Instead, you will get the ticket in the mail or on your windshield.

In addition to the ban on traffic stops for minor infractions, the new law will require the police to release traffic stop data publicly.

Pros and Cons of Philly’s Driving Equity Act

The Driving Equity Act appears to be squarely aimed at addressing systemic racial bias in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. If successful, It will be a significant win for criminal justice reform. However, this law has its critics.

Here are some advantages that residents and commentators have pointed out:

  • Fewer traffic stops will lead to fewer unnecessary interactions with the police, which may, in theory, reduce the number of police misconduct and violence our city sees.
  • With less focus on minor traffic infractions, police may focus on the more serious ones that pose an immediate danger to people’s lives.
  • Because the law requires the police to release traffic stop data, the public will be more informed about traffic stops and any bias that may be present.

Here are some of the drawbacks:

  • Ending stops for minor traffic code violations, such as broken taillights and headlights, could lead to more traffic accidents.
  • A ticket mailed to you or left on your windshield may be more difficult to fight in traffic court.
  • People who see the law as a reason not to purchase legally required auto insurance may encounter or cause financial ruin in the event of a serious car accident.

What’s The Impact of the Ban

Before we see the real-world effect of Philadelphia’s Driving Equity Act, we must approach it with optimism. Most of us can agree that something needs to change to ease tensions, and this is, without a doubt, a big change.

For now, we can hope for fewer traffic stops that end in violence and fewer criminal charges stemming from traffic stops that upend people’s lives. Only time will tell.

Charged After a Traffic Stop? Call a Lawyer

Regardless of the Driving Equity Act’s impact on traffic stops and police-community relations, there will always be traffic stops and resulting charges. If you or a loved one are arrested, contact Fienman Defense.

Let us explain the law, your options and help you secure the best possible outcome. Call attorney Michael Fienman at 215-839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation with a Philadelphia defense lawyer.

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