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Police Prejudice and BMWs

It seems BMW drivers are often the subject of unfair derision. It’s a common assumption that every BMW driver is arrogant or thinks they need to test the limits of their German-engineered machine by driving fast. But many BMW drivers buy their cars because they appreciate quality, safety and design. Stereotypes often have deep roots in society and it’s fair to say traffic cops make these assumptions just like everyone else.

Police discrimination against certain types of cars, particularly those associated with speed and luxury, is something commonly understood by owners of such vehicles. For BMW drivers, experience shows that police think performance cars are more likely to be speeding, even if they are following the speed limit.

BMW drivers subject to greater scrutiny

This assumption can lead to unjustified scrutiny and unfair treatment of BMW drivers. Some officers may have had negative experiences with BMW drivers in the past and are more likely to target them during speed enforcement operations. Others may have heard stories about reckless BMW drivers and may assume that all BMW drivers are the same.

Some may be jealous of that nice car.

Regardless of the reason, this discrimination can create a hostile environment for BMW drivers, who may feel unfairly targeted and harassed by the police. It also contributes to a negative perception of the police, as members of the public may feel that their rights are being violated.

Is there a right violated? Is there a remedy?

What happens if you think you have been pulled over because the police discriminated against you based on the type of vehicle you drive? Is there a remedy in these circumstances? After all, you would think that this is not only unfair but also a violation of your rights.

The idea of legal rights is a creation of law. We often think we have some sort of universal rights that are simply understood. It’s not true, however. Your rights are limited to what has been written into law or interpreted as to exist by the courts. In Canada, we have the Charter of Rights and various Bills of Rights but in the end, we usually just refer to the Charter because it regulates dealings an accused has when they are investigated by the police.

The Charter of Rights delineates legal rights to be treated fairly and not discriminated against based on various factors. This is where you look to find a remedy because of discrimination.

Does the Charter protect you if the police discriminate against you because you drive a BMW?

Section 15 of the Charter spells out equality rights. The primary focus is areas where there has been historic discrimination and what are called immutable characteristics. Race, gender, religion, physical disability, and sexual orientation are what we regularly think of when we consider equality rights. Simply put, equality rights are for the person, not based on considerations of the person’s possessions, such as the type of car.

Is your car a person?

You might be thinking of naming your car, but that won’t change the legal status of your BMW.

It turns out there is, in fact, nothing that impedes the police from pulling over BMWs more than other vehicles.

A police force could probably have the policy to stop BMWs and it wouldn’t be illegal but if the public ever got wind of that, confidence in the police would likely be damaged. Public confidence in the police is always a concern and if the police appear mean-spirited or operate on the basis of whims and personal opinion, officers could face discipline.

Generally speaking, police officers should focus on the behaviour of the driver, regardless of the car they drive. BMW drivers might drive faster or more aggressively. Assumptions about the manner a certain brand of car is driven are simply not good policing, however, because like the other types of bias invariably it leads to unfair treatment and assumptions of guilt, complicity or wrongdoing not on the basis of the facts, but on the basis of a stereotype.

If you’re a BMW driver and you feel targeted despite lawful safe driving, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Although there may not be protections in the Charter from discrimination based on the brand of car you drive, when you are subject to more pullovers because of the brand of car you drive, it sure feels unfair.

For us, it doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive because we rely on the protections in law to fight traffic tickets. We know the defences that are likely to succeed in each type of case because we’re the BC Driving Lawyers. If you got caught, call us now.