According to a RAND Corporation study, in 25 U.S. states, motorists accused of excessive speeding can face either a criminal misdemeanor or a traffic infraction, and the charge is at the discretion of law enforcement officers and the courts. Using data on speeding violations in 18 Virginia counties over a nine-year period, researchers found large racial disparities in who was convicted of a misdemeanor.
Some of the key findings include:
Black motorists cited for speeding were almost twice as likely as White motorists to be convicted of a misdemeanor when their speed was in the range that qualified for the more serious charge.
Whom Officers Charged Explained 55% of the Disparity: Among cited motorists speeding at an excessive level, Black motorists were more likely than White motorists to be charged with a misdemeanor instead of an infraction....
Whom Courts Convicted Explained 45% of the Disparity: Among motorists charged with a misdemeanor by law enforcement, Black motorists were more likely than White motorists to be convicted of a misdemeanor by the court.