BURLINGTON, Vt. – In Chittenden County, drivers pulled over in ‘non-public safety’ traffic stops will no longer be charged with a crime if police find evidence in the vehicle.

The decision was outlined Wednesday in a memo by Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, who said officers often use the pretense of a traffic stop to ‘fish’ for evidence of other offenses. George said it’s a strategy that’s allowed racial biases to persist in the criminal justice system.

“A recent study found that Black Vermonters were four times more likely to be stopped and three times more likely to be searched during a stop than White Vermonters. Latinx Vermonters also were both stopped and searched at higher rates,” George said in the memo. “This is in spite of the fact that searches of Black and Latinx drivers resulted in lower “hit” rates than White or Asian drivers.”

‘Non-public safety’ stops include broken taillights, an expired inspection sticker, driving without a registration, or driving with a suspended license. George provided a full list in her memo:

  • having one broken taillight or brake light
  • failing to signal a lane change
  • operating a vehicle too slowly
  • operating a vehicle with an expired inspection
  • operating a vehicle without registration
  • operating a vehicle with a civilly suspended license
  • operating a vehicle with an excessively loud muffler
  • operating a vehicle with improperly assigned plates
  • operating a vehicle with tinted windows
  • prolonged idling of a vehicle
  • operating a vehicle with an object hanging from the rearview mirror
  • operating a vehicle in the left lane when the right lane is unoccupied
  • stops done strictly to conduct a warrant check