Sarah Ricciardi

Document Type



Nearly twenty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding pretextual traffic stops in Whren v. United States, racial animosity between white police officers and black civilians is as pervasive as ever. Reports of unarmed black men killed at the hands of white law enforcement officers are becoming disturbingly common. Despite the national outcry against racial discrimination by law enforcement, the U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that will broaden police discretion still further. On December 15, 2014, the Court in Heien v. North Carolina held that an officer’s mistake of law can provide the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a traffic stop. This Note argues that this expansion of police discretion will disproportionately affect minorities, exacerbating the deep mistrust between communities and their respective police departments.