Seeing flashing blue and red lights from a police car in your rear-view mirror is never fun. Depending on your previous encounters with law enforcement or from what you’ve witnessed on the news, your interactions with officers might make you very nervous.
For a safer experience, follow this advice:
- Pull over as soon as possible, when it is safe to do so.
- Turn off your vehicle, partially open the window, and place your hands on the top of the steering wheel.
- When requested, provide the officer with your license, insurance, and registration. If these items are in your glove box, ask permission from the officer to open it to retrieve your documents.
What Are Your Rights During a Traffic Stop?
If the officer asks to search your vehicle, you have the right to refuse the search. However, law enforcement can search your vehicle when they believe it may contain evidence of a crime, so they may use this excuse to search it anyway.
You have the right to remain silent – and it is usually in your best interests to exercise this right. You are required to provide the officer with your driver’s license, insurance, and registration, but are not required to answer other questions. A vehicle passenger can ask if they are free to leave, and if the officer answers “yes,” should leave quietly and peacefully. Or, the passenger can remain silently in the vehicle.
If you are arrested, do not resist, even if you believe the police are acting unfairly in their treatment of you. Don’t make excuses, explanations, say anything, or sign anything. Just insist that you want an attorney. Once you are given the opportunity, you will be allowed to make a phone call, but be aware that the police could listen to your call.
You have the right to an attorney – in cases of racially motivated police misconduct, a civil rights attorney should be representing you to pursue justice and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. These cases can bring a long-term benefit to the community, acting as a deterrent for officers inclined to use racial profiling to stop, harass, or arrest people of color.
Were Your Rights Violated?
It has been well established that traffic stops could be racially motivated. If you believe you are the victim of police misconduct of this type, you need the help of an experienced civil rights attorney. Police misconduct is a very serious issue that must be addressed by a lawyer who has a breadth of experience in taking legal action to hold police officers accountable when they commit civil rights violations. The types of civil rights violations you might experience during a stop can include:
- False arrest of a victim that violates your Fourth Amendment rights.
- Malicious prosecution that violates your Fourteenth Amendment rights
- Excessive force in situations that result in serious injury or death.
- Failure of an officer to intervene when a fellow officer is violating your civil rights.
Illegal police stop
Racially motivated police stops and arrests are a significant problem in South Carolina. Recent research of 20 million traffic stops revealed that Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped while driving, even though they drive 16 percent less than whites. The other fact uncovered by the data was that Black people are 115 percent more likely to be searched in a traffic stop than whites, while contraband was found more often in vehicles operated by white drivers. If you were stopped by police who had no valid reason to pull you over, your constitutional rights have been violated.
Probable Cause – What is It?
Under the U.S. Constitution, you cannot be stopped without a valid reason, or “probable cause.” This refers to facts or evidence that would make a reasonable individual, under the same situation, to believe that some offense is being committed or was committed. This could be a traffic issue, such as speeding, a broken tail light, reckless driving, or any other driving or vehicle issue that violates the law. However, if you are stopped by police for no reason, do not challenge the officer to avoid an escalating situation. Remain calm, act respectful, and cooperate with the officer.
Contact a Civil Rights Attorney
If you were a victim of police misconduct, contact Allen Law immediately. As Charleston police misconduct lawyers, we can take action to hold any officer accountable for racially motivated police stops, arrests, or other actions. Know that you have rights, and that we may be able to recover rightful compensation on your behalf if you have experienced constitutional violations at the hands of police officers in South Carolina.
Call us at (843) 882-5005 for a free consultation with no time limit.