·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Walking While Black in Florida? Arrest Prompts Questions

— September 19, 2019

Walking while black may not be a crime on any official books, but some Florida jurisdictions seem to be issuing tickets and making arrests based on it anyway.

Are citizens getting arrested for walking while black in Florida? These statistics are startling!

March 11, 2016, seemed like any other day for 25-year-old Sabrina Richards.  She exited her regular bus at around 6 P.M. like she does every other day.  She looked both ways and made her way across the road. That’s when a nearby Coral Springs Police Officer sprung into action. 

It wasn’t long before Richards was face-down on the ground and being handcuffed. What was her alleged crime according to the police department? 


After her arrest, Richards was outraged. She began doing some independent research, and that’s when she stumbled upon an alarming trend.  The city’s police department, she argues, has been unfairly enforcing jaywalking laws in order to harass, target, and arrest black citizens.  Now, she’s pursuing a federal lawsuit against both the officer who arrested her and the entire City of Coral Springs. 

The federal suit claims that over 58% of all jaywalking citations issued in Coral Springs between 2016 and 2018 were levied against African American citizens. That’s unreasonably high for a city where the black population hovers at around 21.3%.  The statistics give off the impression that citizens are being targeted for arrest simply for walking while black. 

In addition to this disturbing claim, Richards also argues that the officer violated her constitutional rights. She claims the officer failed to read her Miranda rights, searched her bag without consent, and used unreasonable levels of force during the interaction. 

The criminal charges against Richards, which included jaywalking and resisting an officer, were both thrown out back in 2018.  Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren ultimately found that the arrest was unlawful.  She ruled that the officer did not have a reason to stop Richards in the first place.  

Despite being cleared of her criminal charges, Richards wants to pursue justice. On July 23rd, she filed her official lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. painted on side of building: “They will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Image by Allie Smith, via
Quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. painted on side of building: “They will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Image by Allie Smith, via

Does Richards have a case against the city for selectively enforcing pedestrian-related crimes and racially profiling suspects? Hundreds of other Floridians across the state think so.  When other reporters began digging deeper into this phenomena, they found that it wasn’t limited to the Coral Springs area. 

Jacksonville’s black population rests at 29%, but black citizens were issued over 55% of all pedestrian tickets in the city over the last five years. That means walking while black in Jacksonville means you’re three times more likely to get ticketed. 

A Jacksonville Sheriff, Patrick Ivey, was interviewed on the topic. According to Officer Ivey, using a pedestrian violation, like jaywalking, as probable cause to question someone who seems suspicious is a completely legitimate police tactic. 

A Coral City spokesman was also contacted about the lawsuit, but they refused to comment citing the pending litigation.  


Join the conversation!