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Suspect's prudent self-protection results in criminal charges

Racial profiling has long been a problem in the United States. But it has been an especially hot-button issue in the past year or so. Many African-American men are understandably nervous about even routine interactions with police for fear that they might be harmed or killed by officers who shoot first and ask questions later.

It would be untrue and disingenuous to say that all police officers (or even a majority) act like this. But it's difficult to ignore the numerous stories of black men and boys who have been killed by white police officers who inexplicably perceived them as a threat. Such cases have occurred here in Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest.

Unfortunately, African Americans who take precautionary measures when interacting with police are sometimes criminally charged for doing so. Recently, a 24-year-old college student in Michigan was pulled over by a police officer. Although he hadn't done anything wrong, the young man didn't want to pull over until he was in a well-lit area. Michigan apparently has had problems with people being robbed by thieves posing as police officers.

Instead of pulling over immediately, the man drove at a low speed for about one-and-a-half miles. He eventually stopped in a Sam's Club parking lot. He has since been charged with fleeing and eluding police - a felony offense that could result in two years behind bars.

Depending on the specific circumstances, cases like this could easily be dismissed by prosecutors or judges. But prosecutors in this case are apparently trying to offer a plea deal, wherein the man would plead guilty to the lesser charge of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding. But in addition to being unfair, pleading guilty to this charge could jeopardize his financial aid and his job.

In a more perfect America, there would be no question about whether race played a central role in police interactions or police shootings. But America's criminal justice system is far from perfect.

If you are facing criminal charges (racially motivated or otherwise), please ensure that your rights are protected by seeking help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Black College Student Charged With 'Fleeing' Police After Driving To Well-Lit Area To Pull Over," Nick Wing, July 7, 2015

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