Pretext Stops Policy

Policy Directive 2021-09: Pretext Stops Policy

Racial inequity is endemic in our criminal-justice system. And one key driver of those inequities are so-called “pretext stops.” Pretext stops are made by police officers, purportedly as a result of an observed traffic or ordinance infraction—but where the officer is really seeking to uncover evidence that a civilian possessed drugs or other contraband. 

The data clearly shows that Black motorists are significantly more likely to be the subject of pretext stops than white people. Pretext stops are heavily associated with racial profiling, which imposes severe harm on our community. 

Accordingly, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer prosecute contraband cases that arise from “pretext stops.” Specifically, the Prosecutor’s Office will no longer prosecute possession-of-contraband crimes that arise from a factual scenario indicating that a police officer stopped a person for a minor infraction—but where their real goal was to uncover evidence that a civilian possessed drugs or other contraband. 

This Policy does not apply to stops where an officer had legitimate reason to stop a civilian due to suspicion of a crime. Nor does it cover the prosecution of more serious crimes against persons or property. Rather, this Policy is being adopted in the hopes of minimizing the adverse effects that stem from being stopped by a police officer knowing that “the officer is looking for more.” See Utah v. Strieff, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2069 (2016) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Read our full Policy Regarding Pretext Stops