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Ingham County Prosecutor won't charge some crimes on evidence from "pretext" stops

a police car focused on the illuminated light bar

The Ingham County Prosecutors office will no longer charge people for crimes where the evidence comes from so-called "pretext stops," if the stops are not related to public safety.

An example of a pretext stop is when an officer pulls over a driver - often a driver of color - for a minor infraction like something hanging from the rearview mirror and then tries to find evidence of a more serious crime.

The new policy is similar to one instituted by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit  in January.

Savit said national data shows that police pull Black and Hispanic drivers over more frequently for minor infractions than white drivers.

"And importantly, too, Black motorists and Hispanic motorists are significantly more likely to be asked for consent to search their car - on no suspicion - than white motorists," said Savit.

The Ingham County Prosecutors office policy was criticized by Robert Stevenson, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, who called it a "free walk" for criminals. 

But Savit said there's no evidence that similar policies in other states pose a risk to public safety.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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