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Third Release in Justice Analysis Review series analyzes searches conducted during traffic stops

The North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center has released the third part of the Justice Analysis Review, a continuing study of statewide traffic stop data accumulated over the last decade. This third report is part of the North Carolina Traffic Stop series and focuses on vehicle searches that occurred during a traffic stop.  

While Part 1 centered on “who” was stopped and Part 2 concentrated on “why” individuals were stopped, Part 3 examines the search actions taken by law enforcement during a stop.

This third study found that from 2009-19 about 3% of traffic stops resulted in a search, but there were changes in the types of searches conducted over this time period. Searches performed through voluntary consent decreased, while searches based on probable cause increased. Additionally, the search rates varied by purpose of the traffic stop, including:

  • Searches were reported in 30% of traffic stops when DWI was suspected.
  • Searches were reported in 5% of traffic stops for vehicle violation(s)
  • Searches were performed in 1% of traffic stops for speed limit violations in 2019.

Racial differences were found in the rate of searches in traffic stops. Black drivers were searched in 45 of every 1,000 traffic stops in 2019, compared to 25 of 1,000 Hispanics, 23 of 1,000 whites, and 14 of 1,000 for other races. These searches resulted in finding contraband about 1/3 of the time, but there were no significant racial differences in whether searches found contraband.

Click for a copy of Part 3.

Part 1 can be viewed here.

Part 2 can be viewed here.

“I applaud the Criminal Justice Analysis Center’s continued efforts to advance purposeful research and trend analysis that is meaningful to all North Carolinians,” stated Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks.

Note for editors and interested parties: The foundational data used by the Governor’s Crime Commission - CJAC to research and generate these analysis reports, is housed at the State Bureau of Investigation and can be provided upon request via this link.

Background: 

In 2018, DPS Secretary Hooks re-established what was previously known as the Statistical Analysis Center, a data clearinghouse within the Governor’s Crime Commission. 

The unit, which is now known as the Criminal Justice Analysis Center works to collect, analyze and interpret data to help inform criminal justice policy.

The Justice Analysis Review is a brief topic paper on a criminal justice issue in North Carolina. It is produced by the CJAC within GCC.  

This is the third in the series of JARs analyzing traffic stop data.

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