Traffic Stops - What are Your Rights
Traffic stops are one of the most common law enforcement techniques that all of us have probably seen. If you haven’t been stopped by police while you’re driving on the roads, you most certainly have probably seen someone else stopped on the side of the road with those tell-tale blue flashing lights behind them. But do you know what your rights are during a traffic stop?
Hi, my name’s Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, South Carolina and today we’re going to talk about what your rights are and what the police rights are during a traffic stop.
Police Must Have Reasonable Suspicion
When police pull you over for a traffic infraction, they need to have what’s called reasonable suspicion. During that traffic stop, the first thing that police are typically going to ask you is for your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration. As a driver in the state of South Carolina, you are required to possess these items and you are required to possess these items while you’re driving on our roads. If you do not have these items when you’re driving or you don’t have them at all, then you are committing an offense and you’ll most likely receive a ticket in addition to the reason for the traffic stop on top of that.
What happens after that? What happens if police ask you to step out of your vehicle during a traffic stop? Do you have to or do they have the right to do that? Our courts have said that police can ask you to step out of the vehicle during a traffic stop and they don’t need a separate legal basis to do that. They can simply ask you to do that and you are required to comply with that police order. But what happens after you step out of the vehicle? If police start asking you questions about where you’re coming from, where you’re going to, anything like that, do you have to answer those questions? By law, no you don’t. You’re not required to answer those questions and if you refuse to answer those questions, you’re not violating any laws. That doesn’t mean that’s not going to make police more suspicious than they already are. And when I say more suspicious, what I’m talking about is police have already asked you step out of your vehicle, they’re conducting some sort of investigation beyond the traffic stop.
Now, at this point, what happens next? You can ask the police, “Am I free to leave?” And that’s basically putting them on the spot. They’re not going to want to answer this question because if they do, they’re going to have to make a decision right there and then without making any further investigations. They have two choices at this stage. They either have to say, “Yes, you are free to leave,” or at least finish writing that traffic citation or they need to detain you further. And to be able to do that, they need a legal basis that’s separate from the basis for the traffic stop. So, if it was stop for speeding, a tag light or something minor like that, they now need an additional legal basis to do that beyond that traffic infraction. If they don’t have one, then at this point, legally they have to let you go. If they do detain you from this point onward, they have to have a legal basis.
Assert Your Right to a Lawyer
What do you do at this point? If they tell you that you’re not free to leave, the best advice I can give you is tell the police that you want a lawyer. By making this statement, you’re invoking two rights that are critical to you under the Constitution. It’s the fifth and sixth amendment rights that you have. And when you make this statement, you’re telling police that they can no longer question you about this because you’ve invoked your right to remain silent and you’ve invoked your right to have a lawyer present with you during any police questioning. This doesn’t mean that police are going to continue their investigation, but it does preserve your rights from them talking to you. And if they continue to question you and ask you any questions after you’ve invoked those rights, under our laws those statements can’t be used against you in a criminal prosecution.
Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer
And lastly, if police ask to search your vehicle, don’t give them consent. You have a right to tell them no and you have a legal basis to tell them no. It’s called the Constitution. If you’ve been stopped for a traffic stop in the state of South Carolina and charged with a crime and would like to talk to me about your case, please give me a call at 843-530-7813. I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.