The Story of Whren v. United States: The Song Remains the Same
Kevin R. Johnson
University of California, Davis - School of Law
RACE AND LAW STORIES, Devon Carbado and Rachel F. Moran, eds., 2006
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 71
This book chapter, which will be part of a book of famous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that touch on issues of race and civil rights, considers the decision of Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996). In that case, the Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, held that, so long as police officers had probable cause for a stop, it did not violate the Fourth Amendment - even if the reason for the stop was pretextual. The Court instead held that a claim for racial discrimination was properly made under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This chapter places the case in its proper historical context of the war on drugs and the trajectory of the Court's Fourth Amendment decisions, and analyzes how the decision made it difficult through the U.S. Constitution to put an end to racial profiling. The chapter further tells the story of the various interested parties, including the two defendants, Michael Whren and James Brown, before and after the Court's decision, with some surprising information; Michael Whren ended up in college while the vice officers primarily involved in the arrest had less illustrious turns in their careers. From a social change prospective, the Court's decision in Whren shifted efforts to end racial profiling from the legal to the political realm, which at least before the events of September 11, 2001 yielded some positive developments.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 3, 2006
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