Driving While Black and Female

by Demetria L. Lucas

Sixteen years ago, I got my driver’s license. I bounced and hopped my way into the house where my dad was waiting for me, expecting him to geek out right along with me. This was a big deal. Free-dommmm!

But I got the responsible parent reaction instead. Womp womp. There were rules for his cars: Don’t bring them home on E, keep them clean, obey the speed limit, pay your own tickets, and, by God, don’t be riding no boys around in them. And then I got a speech I wasn’t expecting about getting pulled over by cops.

It was said as a given that it would happen, even if I followed all the traffic rules. I knew what they were: Answer “Yes, sir” or “Yes, officer.” Keep your hands on the 10 and 2. Comply with requests. Don’t talk back. Ask to reach for your license and registration. No sudden movements. I just didn’t think they applied to me.

Driving While Brown, that baffling phenomenon of black and Latino men getting pulled over by cops simply for being behind the wheel of the vehicle, only applies to guys, right? The stories I’ve heard of DWB usually come from folk who look about like BET news anchor TJ Holmes — not in the fineness factor per se, but in that they come from people who are black and male. Not like, you know me — black and female.

But I was 16 in PG County, Maryland, a region of suburbia where local tales of racist cops rivaled those of the more nationally notorious LAPD and NYPD. Things were bad when my parents arrived there in the mid ’70s, but in 1978, the year before I was born, they went from bad to #$%storm worse.

A 15-year-old kid, Terrence Johnson, and his older brother were either arrested for driving a car without lights or they were pulled over on suspicion that they had broken into a laundry room coin box and taken in for questioning.  Either way, the brothers were taken to a local police station, separated, and two cops interrogated Terrence. And now, only God knows what really happened next.

Terrence said the officers began beating him and he thought he was going to die. Somehow he ripped an officer’s gun from its holster and let loose. Both cops were killed. Terrence was convicted of manslaughter.

He was paroled the year I got my license.

My dad, Mississippi bred in the pre-Civil Rights era, hadn’t forgotten whatever happened to him there, or what had happened to Terrence in Maryland. He would rather be safe than sorry, so “Bay” (that would be me) got a rundown of the rules. And I listened like I didn’t already know them just to keep the peace — and, more importantly, get the keys so I could somewhere, anywhere now that I had a silence.

Turns out that speech came in handy. Before I turned 22 and moved to New York without my car because really, you don’t need one, I was pulled over six times. Three of those were completely my fault. My bestie and I were trying to set a new record for driving from Atlanta to D.C. post-Spring Break. We would have made it in just under eight hours — it’s usually 10 — if she hadn’t been clocked in my car going 106mph in a 65 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.

Two years later, I got pulled over in Ashburn, Virginia — I should have known better. Virginia is notorious for traffic cops — doing 93 in a 65, trying to make it to the Redskins practice field for my first assignment for ESPN the Magazine.

That other time, I was driving home fast because, hell, it was 75 degrees with a breeze, I had a sunroof, a new stereo system, and there was no one else on the road. The cop pulled me over for speeding and let me off with a warning and a ticket for not having my registration.

The other three were clear cases of Driving While Black. One night, I was driving my mother’s luxury truck from D.C. to Maryland after leaving the club with my then-boyfriend’s sister. I was sober because I didn’t have a fake ID. The black cop who pulled us over said I was “going a little fast.” (I wasn’t.) And he didn’t give me a ticket, or even run my license. Just moved the flashlight around the car and told us to have a good night. Um. OK.

Around the same time, I was driving the vintage convertible my dad bought brand new to impress my mom before I was born. I was leaving Tyson’s Corner II, the shopping equivalent of Phipps Plaza in ATL, or Bal Harbor in Miami, and missed my exit for 95. I went a couple of lights down to where it was legal to make a U-turn and did. Siren.

Siren. White cop. He didn’t offer any explanation for why I’d been pulled over. I didn’t grill him, per Dad’s orders. But he wanted to know whose car I’m driving. “My father’s,” I answered.

He asked for all the usual stuff, and I sat in the car while he ran my info and plates. When he returned, he said, “Who is [Dad’s first and last name]?  That would be the name of the person whose name was the tags and registration, the man who gave me my surname, which was right there on the state-issued license the cop was holding. I wanted to say, “Duh, mother@#$%^*, that’s my daddy!” but I suppressed the urge and said, “[Dad’s full name] is my father.”

“Does he know you have his car?” the cop asked.  I assured him my father did.

The cop gave me a lingering once over and handed me back my stuff. He double patted the roof of my car and walked off. WTF? I waited until he pulled from behind me to move the car and headed back to the correct exit.

The sixth time scared the crap out of me. I was leaving my boyfriend’s house at 2 a.m.. He wanted to follow me home to make sure I got back safely. I told him he was being ridiculous; I lived less than 10 minutes away. There were dark, two-lane back roads, but I’d ridden on them my whole life, could drive them with my eyes closed if it wasn’t for those deer. He rolled his eyes and relented.

I pulled out of his sub-division, made a left onto the main road. Flipped on my high beams. I was listening to some love song, easing my way down the road, when the beams from a vehicle behind me lit up my car. Then I heard the sirens.

There were few lights on the road. The next one was a bit away. I put on my hazards to acknowledge the officer, turned the radio off, and kept going to the light.

“Why didn’t you pull over when you saw me?” the officer demanded after I’d stopped my car and lowered the window.

White cop. I explained that I didn’t think it was safe to pull over in the dark. He grunted and demanded my license.

He looked at it, looked at me, looked back at it. “This isn’t you. Whose license did you steal?”

I clenched the 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, double-checked to make sure the bass was out of my voice. “That’s me, officer.”

He shined the light directly in my face and I squinted. “Why’s your hair all done up like that?” It was an accusation more than a question. My hair was straight that day. In my license it was natural and big and four shades of blonde. I didn’t know how to respond, so I said, “Huh?”

He demanded my registration. I sat in the car while he ran my info. It was so quiet I could hear the buzz of the street light above me.

When he came back, he shined the light in my face again. I wished I had called home to tell my parents where I was. There were no cars passing on the road at that time of night. If something happened to me, it will be hours before anyone realized it.

“How do you get home from here?” the cop asked.

I wasn’t expecting the question.  “Um ….  “

“If this was your license, you’d know how to get to the address. It’s not far.”

I rattled off directions. A right two lights down, up the hill, a left into the subdivision.

He wanted to know what my parents did for a living. I made note of his badge number when I answered. He asked if the car was my father’s and if he knew I was driving it. He asked me to recite my address, asked if when he drives by my house tomorrow if the car will be in the driveway. I said, “Yes, officer,” even though I was driving one of the cars that gets parked in the garage.  He told me it better be there or he would ring the doorbell.  He gave me the same once over that the cop by Tyson’s II did, returned my stuff, and told me to have a good night.

I didn’t wait for him to leave, I just pulled off to get away from him and wished the speed limit was higher so I could get home faster.

Have you ever been pulled over for Driving While Black?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. ABIB is available for download and in paperback. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    I have been driving for 10 years and I have been pulled over once. I was trying to pick up my phone that had fallen on the floor of the passenger side and the car was swerving. I cannot blame them there! He asked what I was doing, I told him and he shone the light in the car and let me go with a verbal warning to be careful.

    My parents never went through the ‘what to do when stopped by cops’ routine with me so I guess it is a miracle I am still alive.

  • LipsticktomboyD

    I am from Virginia but I’m from an area a little further south than Tyson’s and I understand the getting pulled over with no explanation. Its has happen to me driving my mothers luxury car and it has also happen to my mothers friends that own luxury cars also. I feel like some of the cops do it because they think that you either stole the car or they do it just to intimidate you. Another thing that occurs in VA too is state police officers running your tags illegaly. I had noticed a few times when driving that state police officers will follow me for about 7-10 minutes right on my bumper and then pull from behind me and fly off. I asked one of friends who just so happens to be a police officer what was going on and he said that the state trooper may have ran my plates. Currently I live in PG County, MD and I have yet to experience DWB but my Ex has. He was pulled over and had a gun drawn on him for looking like a robbery suspect, after they figured out he wasn’t the suspect they let him go.

  • New Driver

    As someone who was recently licensed and I am still taking driving lessons this was an informative article. I too never thought of driving while Black applied to Woman such as myself. For some reason it has always been the Men in my life that this happens to.. Heck alot get pulled over while walking! Good advice and as a continue my venture with driving I will keep this in mind.

  • http://ayearinourlives.wordpress.com ayearinourlives

    when i was in dc, only in town a few hours, when I got pulled over the first time. three police cars blocked me in like i was going to run, and they took my keys out of the ignition before they even asked me any questions. all that over a broken tail light? i think not. gave me a warning and told me to fix the light, which i did immediately.
    the second time, i was leaving hyattsville headed into dc. four maryland cops this time. ask me if i noticed the crack in my windshield. gave me a warning again, but I was scared out of my mind.
    the third time, i hadn’t been speeding or anything. i was lost somewhere in NW DC trying to find my friend’s house. pulled over…they ran my license and registration, gave it back, and told me to be safe.
    i hadn’t been in dc an entire month when all these stops happened. i was talking to a friend of mine, and they said i was probably getting stopped so much because i had out of state license plates (from alabama). its funny, i drove in philly 3 years with those plates without ever once being noticed. but in dc i was pulled over 3 times in less than a month. Another friend said they probably thought I was transporting drugs or something. either way, i didn’t stay in dc for long.

    and yeah, my dad gave me the same talk when I first started driving.

  • http://www.AshleyGaGa.com AshleyGaGa

    I’m sorry but PG County police are not that bad. I’m from DC, drive in PG rather frequently and have a multitude of friends who live there, none of which have been pulled over for DWB. Especially none of my women friends. In the same way, none of the women of my family have, or men for that matter, have ever been pulled over for DWB.

    I know everyone has a different experience in life. But this is something I’ve never heard of. I’ve lived in this area for 28 years. My mother for 52 and my grandmother for 70-something. None of us have been pulled over for DWB&F within the entire DMV area.

  • shadow

    I got pulled over while looking at houses in the area we live in now…note that I told my husband I was a little leery about moving out here anyways ’cause it’s not too many black folks out here. Anywho, I actually saw this white police office run a red light when he spotted me. I got the speech as a kid, so I knew what to do. BTW, I hadn’t made any driving infractions. He gets out, tells me I was speeding (lie)& I wasn’t wearing my seat belt (lie) all in one breath and NEVER made eye contact until I opened my mouth to speak. His head quickly turned around and he was clearly shocked when he did finally look at me…see I had just big chopped and had a TWA. He thought I was a black teenaged BOY! His face turned so red. He had the nerve to laugh, told me to have a good day and left & didn’t even ask for license/registration… kid you not!

  • belle/demetria

    Hi Ashley:

    I didn’t mean to disparage PG County cops, specifically. I think what I described could happen in any city. It’s just that I happen not to have driven the most in the DMV area.

    Re: PG cops
    the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had the PGPD under a decade long investigation because of alleged corruption and misconduct. There were only FOUR other counties where the police were being investigated,(the LAPD, Detroit, New Jersey and the District.) The Wapo covered it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/10/AR2009021002067.html

    There’s a great article by Ta-Nehisi Coates writing for The Washington in 2001: that gives a “highlights reel” of the worst of PG cops and flat out calls them “thugs”: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0106.coates.html << PGMD's crazy stems back a long, long way.

    Thanks for reading!

  • Courtenee

    I love the response and I agree. My mom was pulled over in PG, for DWB. And all she was doing was passing through. They need to be investigated.

  • Vasha

    This happens a lot regardless to which city you live in. I was stopped twice DWB as a woman in New Olreans and Katy, Tx. In NO the black female cop stopped me, bc she said I did not look four ways at a stop sign. Now mind you at a stop sign if you look four ways you will actually have to turn your head all the way around and look behind you to go forward this is utter ridiculous. She let me go, bc she said our birthday was the same.
    Next, when I was stopped in Katy, Tx I was in a school zone driving the speed limit, but everybody else was driving beyond the speed limit before the time expired, shoe pulls me over. I felt that his main reason was, bc I was talking on my phone. His reason for pulling me over was I was driving slow in a school zone, but his questions mainly focused on the cell phone, bc a cop was killed earlier in the week by someone driving and talking on their cell phone. My manners are not restrained when I am stopped by the cops unnecessarily, so my questions to him was is talking on the cell phone illegal. He hesitated, but an said. After running my plates, ID, and insurance he asked did I have any warrants out for my arrest, and I said NO, he said are you sure. At this point my patience are wearing thin, so he finally let me go after his backup came, and he had NO reason to stop me.

  • lola_z

    Wow, the last incident is some scary stuff.
    When I moved to a certain area in Ohio for college, my brother has a sit down conversation with me about cops and the back roads/corn fields. He said NEVER, stop on one of those dark streets if the cops are trying to pull you over. Slow down, so he sees you’re not evading him, put on your emergency brakes and keep driving til you get to a well lit area… Luckily for me though, this never happened.
    But I did get pulled over on my way back from WV one year. I was doing 92/93 in a 55 zone. The stop was legit, but then when

  • Jamila

    WOW I forgot all about that talk my dad gave me. I need to make note i have a 15yr who will get her license at 16 and we live in known area for stopping while driving while black.

  • TheBestAnonEver,Part 2

    That has happened to me in VA a number of times. Once they drove past me and looked in and I waved and he waved back. Ignorance is bliss I tell you. All this while, I thought they were just driving along. I could have been killed for waving.

  • Krysten

    Sure have! I was in D.C. over by New York Ave. It was a shady neighborhood, cops on every corner. I noticed a cop pull up behind me and, three minutes later, turn on his lights.
    Baffled, I pulled over. He said that my left brake light wasn’t working. I said that was odd, seeing as though I had just got a tuneup. He asked to see my license.

    Meanwhile, his female partner comes out and tries to look around inside my car.
    He stares at my license for 20 seconds, hands it back and tells me to drive safely.

    I asked a bystander whether or not any of my brake lights were out. He said they were all fine. 0_o

    This is the first time this has happened to me… ever. I was shaken up. I’m guessing he saw the out-of-state tags and was wondering what I was doing in the neighborhood.

    But I was only there to pick up furniture I found on Craigslist.

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  • NewLook

    From Boston – I’m a black female and never been pulled over (yet). My Dad and my brothers have been pulled over countless times. I have been pulled over while WALKING though (my little brother too on campus). The cop said “I know how you guys in the hood act so I wanted to make sure everything was ok” DIRECT QUOTE.

  • NewLook

    Oh and my younger brother became a lawyer for this EXACT reason. I will laugh at the next person that tries to do this again.

  • lulu

    I have been driving for the same amount of time and I have never been pulled over. I live in Texas and drove across the Texas Highway back and fro for about 4 years while I was in undergrad. The city I went to school in was predominantly white.

    I’ve always attributed it to my very easy to ignore, basic, black honda civic. At the same time though, I have to myself lucky. I know driving while black is real because racism is alive and kicking in this world. I have heard from people who know cops and from people who are cops that after a couple of years, they grow a sort of hatred and bias for people of color based on repeated experiences which is sad.

  • who run the world?…GOD

    I had never been pulled over before until my family moved out of PG into a neighboring predominantly white county. I could be whizzing past police all day in my little plain car and not ever get pulled over but whenever I drove my parents’ more expensive cars I would be pulled over immediately, I even got pulled and over and a ticket while turning into my driveway because one of my mother’s taillights were out. The police are always rude and stay shining their flashlights throughout my car and asking me a thousand ?s about my passengers, destination, etc. Granted I am always defensive and have an attitude because I know I’m being pulled over because I’m DWB but its not right!

  • Pretty Nicki

    I live in Hampton Roads and have been over plenty of times mostly because I was speeding and knew it but I only have gotten one ticket. I’m attractive so I know what to do when an officer pulls me over: flirt and show major cleavage. It works all the time except when I did go 45 in a 25. The officer was really old and I wasn’t going to show him the goods. It doesnt matter what the officer’s race is black, white, etc. All men like a pretty woman with a beautiful smile and nice breasts.

  • Rochelle

    Got my license at 17 and now I am 30. DWB knows no gender. If your black your blk. Plus most can’t tell your gender if it is dark and the windows are rolled up, you just look like a black figure. I have been pulled over so many times I really have lost count. I have gotten multiple parking tickets and had my car towed twiced in my lifetime. I have paid out AT LEAST 7 grand to the state in tickets. Most of it my fault because at one point I was young and dumb and thought i could drive without a license and without insurance. Boy was I wrong. LOL. It seems like the author brought many of these incidents on herself. Some it seems was bad luck, but was it really bad? I mean she didn’t get a ticket or points on her license and she is safe so…….. I guess she was lucky.

  • Rochelle

    you are a fooll.

  • Rochelle

    you are an idiot.You should not be talking on a phone while driving. Hundreds of people die every year because of idiots like yourself. No wonder po po’s sometimes have an attitude…..too much entitlement. Then you have the nerve to have an attitude. You B! You have no right to put other people’s lives in danger.

  • Catalina

    OMG, I really did not know that happens to women. I have been pulled over in Southern california, where relations with Black and Latino is a little tense. I received my first speeding ticket when I first got here, even though I wasn’t speeding. I bought a dash cam for future events like that. I found out the hard way that a judge is going to take a police officer’s statement as truth no matter what.

  • Funlocky


  • Ariel

    In 2006, I was a senior in college driving my 1996 Ford Aspire (affectionately known as ‘Ole Faithful, and later as the Whipper, a distant cousin to the Whip) home late one night. I was in the far right lane coming up on an intersection. I remember noticing a cop in the left hand turning lane but right after I crossed the intersection, that same cop was behind me. I was confused as to why this cop, all but parked in the turning lane crossed three lanes to get behind me. He flashed his lights and I turned on my hazard lights and pulled into the nearest lit parking lot. Before the cop came to my window asking for my license and registration, there were two more cops pulled up behind me. The cop told me that he pulled me over because my insurance was expired. It wasn’t. I had just paid it. The two other cops didn’t leave their vehicles during this time. The cop let me go after he ran my license. I was on the phone with my father shortly after, rattled, confused and a little upset. I was pulled over because of my skin color.

  • Pamela

    Thank you for your response. I am a police officer and people on their phones while driving are nothing but a disaster. While its not illegal in many states to talk on your cell phones and drive your erratic operation while doing so is illegal. And let’s be honest who is actually concentrating 100% on the road if your yakking on the phone. It puts the public as well as myself and coworkers at risk. If that call is that important stay home. Also if your driving slow in a neighborhood pearling at houses even if your only interested in purchasing yes you will be stopped and check based on that behavior and yes we are within our rights to do so regardless of your sex. Men and women commit crimes therefore men and women will be dealt with equally. A lot of people think that there actions or sex don’t warrant police intervention but these same people are quick to call when they witness someone else committing the same act. By the way at night which is my primary shift I nor my coworkers know right away wnhat your race and sex is until your stopped. What we do know is that an act was committed or have to take in consideration the totality of acts and are committed to checking you out at a time of day which is considered regardless of where you live a even more dangerous time to do our job. Yes we knew what we signed up for when we took our oath. We know just how dangerous our job is. We know just how thankless it is. We also know the majority of people don’t like us until they need us. We also know that we would not give up this job for anything because when we get that one person who do recognize all that we do and are appreciative it’s worthwhile. One last thing no its not illegal to randomly run your plate, you have no expectation of privacy there. By the way I’m not only a officer but also a black female officer and very proud of the work I do.

  • Malta1565

    Was pulled over at 19 for driving a Mercedes. Had to convince a rude and suspicious cop that it wasn’t a stolen car and my parents knew I was driving it – was totally freaked out and subservient.. Was pulled over in my mid thirties for driving a car with out of state plates. However in the intervening years, had learned my rights. Refused to show license and registration and refused an automobile search. Eventually had three cruisers and a bunch of pissed off cops surrounding me. I eventually drove off as out of state plates are not a crime. Cops couldn’t detain or arrest me.

  • Pingback: Driving While Black and Female | TheJusticeTeam

  • http://gravatar.com/onlyenay Enay

    I see a trend in the comment section of blacks being pulled over in luxury cars. Is that a thing?

  • Chuck Kinsey

    I used to get pulled over frequently on my way to work at 4am. I would only get pulled over if I was driving my old but perfectly operational Cadillac Fleetwood. The cops were always astounded when I rolled down my window to see I am white. SMH

  • Travelin Lightor just “Trav”

    There’s a different butt directly related incident(s) that I’ve experienced more than once.
    I’m a white guy who has always been and always will be into IR dating.
    I’m originally from Chicago and have lived in L.A., Mpls and San Francisco.

    Over the years, I’ve been pulled over by these damn racist cops who had it in their little tiny one celled brains that I was a john who was connecting with a hooker.
    I’m not into that and, these ladies were my legitimate dates.
    So~~there needs to be another designation~~DWDIR or, Driving While Dating Interracially.

  • my_reply

    Wow. I would have bust out laughing in his face.


    Ive been driving for 15 years….im 30….ive never been pulled over in my home state of New York but, been pulled over about 10 times in the last 6 years that ive lived in Arizona. one day i didn’t have my wallet (changed purses) i was pulled over right in FRONT of my job….

    long story short. .he arrested me for not having proof of identity because the picture that they have of me i had a small short Afro the cop said “that could be my twin for all he knows” ….(i have long locs past my shoulders now.)
    …i was thrown in jail for about 13 hours, car towed away, just for them to let me walk out of jail with no ticket, write up…NOTHING!

    But, believe me the cop wish he NEVER pulled me over or arrested me….i read him the riot act all the way to the jail

  • Kashiwa

    I’ve been driving for more than 50 years. I’ve driven in every state except Alaska and Idaho. I’ve even driven in Japan and Viet Nam. I’ve never been stopped because of my skin color. Perhaps I’ve been lucky or just perhaps DWB isn’t as widespread as we have been led to believe. The only folks posting comments here are folks who say they’ve been stopped for DWB. Maybe other folks who have never been stopped should post comments to give more balance to this discussion.

  • Brandy

    ABSOLUTELY I have been pulled over while DWB!! True Story: In Los Angeles, CA October 2010, I had just purchased a new car three weeks prior and still had the dealer plates on while I waited on the license plates from the DMW. It was around 8pm and I was transitioning onto the freeway when a California Highway Patrol officer pulled in behind me and lit me up. I wasn’t speeding (there was bumper to bumper traffic) nor was I breaking any traffic laws so it struck me as strange as to why I was being pulled over. Anyways, I pulled off the freeway, pulled over, and proceed to do what we are all taught-turned my car off, turned the radio off, turned by dome light on and put BOTH hands on the wheel in plain sight. The cop walks up to my window and says “I pulled you over because I noticed you only have your parking lights on instead of the headlights.” I politely replied halfway laughing “I am so sorry Officer. I just bought my car and still getting used to all of the controls. So sorry.” He asked for my registration, proof of insurance and DL. Of course, as I stated earlier, my car was new and I had not received registration. Thinking that this fact should be VERY obvious to anyone with working eyeballs, I let the officer know this and he asked me for my DL and proof of insurance. I handed him my information and the cop looks at my insurance card then looks back at my car and very rudely exclaims “THIS IS A {year and Type of Car}!!!!” I replied plainly with, “Yes.” The cop scoffs very loudly and aggressively yells “STAY IN THE CAR. . .DON”T MOVE!!” He pulls out his flashlight and proceeds to walk around my car and never bothered to take note of the temporary registration card listing ME as the REGISTERED OWNER and the dealer address taped to the bottom right hand side of my windshield. Once again, he yells through my passenger side window “DON”T MOVE. . .SAY RIGHT HERE!!”. I got so scared because I did not understand why he felt the need to be so aggressive. I wanted to cry but I just took a deep breath, stayed calm and replied “Yes, Officer.” He walked back to his patrol car and proceeds to try and find something. . .anything on me which was fine because I have nothing on my record. After about 10 minutes of this, the cop walks back to my car and says “I ran your registration and your registration comes back expired as of July 2010.” I couldn’t believe MY EARS! I thought this cop must be deaf AND blind to not see the dealer plates on my car. Plus, I told him from the start I didn’t have registration because the car was just purchased!! I took a deep breath and made sure all the bass was out of voice and said “Officer I just purchased the vehicle three weeks ago and I have dealer plates. Maybe the DMW is still processing the registration?” The cop then proceeds to explain “It DOESN”T matter! The dealer is not supposed to sale you a car with expired registration. I am writing you a citation for expired registration.” I remained quiet because it was very apparent what was happening. He continues “Once you get your registration you will need to walk it and this citation into a DMW or any PD and they will sign off on it.” The next thing he said really tripped me out. . .with a smirk on his face “I’ll let the headlight thing slide for this time!” WTF!! Totally defeated, I shut up, signed the citation and politely thanked the officer as he walked away. I made sure his name and badge number were on the citation as well.
    The next day, I contacted the finance department at the dealership where I purchased my car and explained what happened to the finance manager. The finance manager explained to me that in the state of California when you purchase a vehicle there is a 120 day time period wherein a change of registration must be processed and essentially this cop broke the CA vehicle code by issuing me this citation. Afterwards, at the urging of friends and family and receiving the information from the finance manager, I decided to file a complaint on this officer. The following Monday (this happened on a Saturday night), I called around and was able to find out where this cop was headquartered. I called his station to get the name and address of his Sergeant to let him know that I would be filing a complaint with the Internal Affairs Division of the California Highway Patrol and he would be receiving a copy of my compliant. Surprisingly, I was able to speak with the Sergeant and he agreed to intercept the citation so that it would not go to the courts. The Sergeant actually apologized on behalf of his officer and told me that the officer would be disciplined for his actions. I was satisfied with the end result. I guess you could argue that this was the case of an ill informed cop with an eyesight problem. Perhaps. But tell me how many people riding around in new cars with dealer plates get pulled over and cited for expired registration?

  • baiskeli


    I once got pulled over and the first word out of the cops mouth after verifying it was indeed my car was a suspicious “How did you afford this.” And this was for a newish Nissan Maxima.

    B.T.W Reason I was stopped? Waiting too long between indicating a lane change and changing lanes (apparently 8-10 seconds is too long). Let go after a whole bunch of stupid questions (where do you live, what are you doing here?)

  • baiskeli

    Heh, opposite but related experience.

    I’m black, my wife is white. Once we were walking arm in arm down the street in Brookline MA where she lived at the time, a cop driving down the street the other waypulls a sharp U-Turn after passing as, pulls up to us, glares at me and then asks my wife “Are you OK”. We’re shocked, she answers, “umm, yes”, and he drives off without a word.

  • mike

    From new Orleans in the 80′ it was common for a black man to be pulled over told to exit vehicle lay on ground rain or not or sit on curb or lay on hood. I am a truck driver traveling the highways every day and I must say Dwb it’s getting worse on the interstate’s

  • Say Wut?

    O_O You’re kidding right?

  • simplyme

    This actually happened to a friend of mine. On her first date with a White guy for that matter… awkward.

  • nona

    I’m a new driver (just got my license a month ago at 21, woot) was pulled over once because I drove on the wrong side of the street really late at night. That was a pretty legitimate reason to be pulled over, and I am a careful driver in general. I live in a pretty racially diverse area, although when I’m driving somewhere unfamiliar and known for being “leery” of black folk, I am super nervous I’ll get pulled over just for being brown.

  • Tika

    I was driving across Mississippi into Alabama (already a bad start) from Texas when I saw 2 state troopers on the side of the road. I actually thought to myself “there’s no way they’re gonna pull me over” only because I had heard stories of DWB through the South. Lo and behold one of the state troopers pulls out from the median and starts the lights and siren behind me. I pull over and he ask me to step out of the car. The request put me on alert because 1) I had never been asked to step out of the car before 2) there was no obvious reason to pull me over to begin with and 3)he was white and I was in Mississippi.
    He then asked me where I was going, if that was my car(rental), why I was going there, etc. Unfortunately, I was nervous and he noticed it and took it as I was hiding something. Also to my detriment I smile when nervous( I guess he thought that meant I was lying. Told me to wait outside of the car while he ran my info and then proceeded to ask if I had any drugs in the car. I know I had a quizzical look on my face, and also the nervous smile when I answered no of course not. He then said he was going to give me one more chance to answer truthfully because if he found drugs I was going to go under the jail. I said no. 15 minutes later 6 cop cars pull up behind him and an hour later he and another officer are literally pulling apart the rental car searching for drugs. OF COURSE they didn’t find anything and he then walks over to me and tells me that I was driving a little to close to the car in front of me but he will let me off with a warning. I was so astonished that all I could say was thank you officer, get back in my car, and pull off as fast as the speed limit allowed. As soon as I found the nearest rest stop I pulled over and screamed out my anger and confusion over what had just happened.

  • Dinizulu

    I never got the driving while black speech. None of my parents drive but, growing up in America in the 60′s and 70′s, I got the living while black in America drilling.
    I’ve had a few DWB incidents but, one stands out in my memory, the first and as a passenger.
    I was on my way home, with a couple of fellow students from Talladega College in AL on our way to Atlanta on Christmas break, 1974. I’m not sure where we were, somewhere in between Talladega and Atlanta on some AL two lane. When we passed an AL state trooper headed in the opposite direction. As the trooper passed us, I saw his brake lights go on from the side view mirror of the car I was riding. I asked the driver if he saw the trooper’s brake lights and he said he did and to just be cool. Mind you it was broad daylight, we weren’t speeding, there was a considerable amount of traffic on the road for that time of day and year and seat belts were not yet mandatory. But, it didn’t take long, about a mile or less, before we saw the trooper’s car again, two cars behind us, weaving back and forth across the center dividing lines trying to pass them to get behind us. Again, our driver told us to just be cool and we were. All I could think of was what was this Harlem son doing in George Wallace’s Alabama. Eventually, the trooper turned on lights and siren to get around the traffic in front of him and once behind us he pulled us over. From the cruiser’s public address, the trooper told, “…the occupants of the car to put your hands on the dashboard” and the driver to put his hands up on the interior roof of the car. All three of us were in the front seat as all of our trunks and bags were in the back. The trooper then approached our car on the passenger side, gun drawn. No one in the car spoke, we didn’t question why, what we did wrong or made any sudden moves. We followed directions as ordered. We all “overstood” this was a potential life threatening situation. All I could remember was Malcolm X’s admonishment to, “…live, if at all possible but, if you have to give your life make sure it be even steven”. So, my immediate thought and plan was to survive this encounter by every means necessary. The trooper, gun still drawn, tried to open the passenger side door, yanking on the handle repeatedly to no avail until he noticed what I already knew, the door was locked. This made him look kind of Barney Fife-ish and the look in my eyes must have said as much. Because, when our eyes met he got red in the face and angrily told me to unlock the door. I followed his instructions by deliberately removing my right hand from the dash and tracing my thumb and index finger slowly up and across the window seal and door frame down to the door lock, popped it and with thumb and index finger retraced my movement back the the dash board. My movements must have mesmerized the officer, when I looked back in his eyes he flinched almost as if he had been startled, He got redder, if at all possible, snatched the door open, told the other passenger and I to get out of the car, go to the back of the vehicle, put our hands on the trunk and spread eagle. He told our drive to remain seated with his hands up on the roof of the car. He then holstered his weapon and proceeded to pat us down. He emptied our pockets, took our ID and wallets. He then got the driver out, directed him to the back of the vehicle and proceeded to pat him down, even removed his applejack and ran his fingers through the brother’s natural like he might have been hiding a weapon or contraband in his ‘fro. He put all three of us in the back of the patrol car, asked us where we coming from, where we were going and then called dispatch to get the description of bank robber suspects out of Selma. I heard dispatch reply with a different make model and color of car we were driving, heading in a totally different direction than we were driving. He wrote down our information and remarked to me how well known and influential my last name was in the area. He let us go and we drove on. We spoke about it only after we were back on the road and back on our way to Atlanta. I never forget it.

  • hookemhorns

    once for “speeding.” ( i had cruise control on set to the speed limit, and it just so happened to be a brand new car). another time i was driving my dad’s truck and i was pulled over because the “tent was too dark.”(the cop tested it, saw it was indeed legal, and then proceeded to give me a written warning) the other two times, totally my fault.

  • Missy

    ha — I’ve been driving for nearly 24 years. I was pulled over when I was 18 1/2 years old in Royal Oak Township, MI, right outside of Detroit. I was returning from a shopping trip during which I purchased toiletries that I needed to take with me to college; I was to start my sophomore year the very next day. I took a short cut from the main road through the side streets (all urban, for sure) to get to 8 Mile Rd. When I was less than 1/4 mile from 8 Mile, this jerk turns on his lights and pulls me over — he had followed me from the main road. It was about 3pm on a Saturday in late August. I was driving my mom’s car, a late model Volvo, and the “p” (for September) was partially ripped from the corner of her registration tag, but you could still tell it was “SEP” for “September.” This jerk (g-rated comment) didn’t ask me for ANY registration, license, or other form of ID. He, a tall and blonde white cop, just asked me “whose car is this?” and “you don’t look like you should be driving a car like this.” I had shorts, a t-shirt, and a white baseball cap on. After I told him that the car was my mother’s, he let me drive on south and cross 8 Mile.
    All of the things my parents told me — drive the speed limit (which I was doing — I think I was a few miles under), keep your hands visibly on the wheel, don’t reach for your purse if it is under the seat, ask to reach for your purse and tell the cop where you are reaching–kicked in instinctively. This was 1990. And I was scared. So scared that I failed to get the jerk’s badge number.

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