No one wants a police traffic stop to end badly. Undoubtedly, you would much rather go on your way every day without an officer pulling you over, but most drivers find themselves stopped by an officer at some point during their driving years for one reason or another. Even if you do not think you exceeded the speed limit, a South Carolina officer may have other reasons for stopping you.
Though you may immediately feel your heart rate increase, try to remain as calm as possible. This can seem difficult, but as long as you know your rights and behave reasonably, your traffic stop should go as smoothly as possible.
What should you do?
First, if an officer activates the blue lights and siren on a police vehicle to initiate a traffic stop, you should pull over. While you can continue driving for a short period to find a safe place to stop, try to pull over as quickly as possible. Continuing to drive for too long could give the officer cause to think you are trying to evade the stop.
After you stop your vehicle, put yourself in a position to handle the interaction as best as you can, which could include the following actions:
- Turn your vehicle off after stopping.
- Turn on the overhead light inside your vehicle, especially if stopped at night.
- Have your driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration at the ready.
- As the officer approaches your vehicle, have your hands where he or she can see them, like on the steering wheel.
- Remember that you have the right to remain silent if the officer starts making inquiries about your activities or asking anything other than your name.
A worst-case scenario for you may involve the officer asking you to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests or take a breath test, or even asking to search your vehicle. Remember that you do not have to consent to field sobriety tests or a vehicle search, especially if the officer does not have a warrant or probable cause for a search.
What if you end up arrested?
Unfortunately, many traffic stops do not end with the driver and officer going their separate ways amicably. If the officer believes that he or she has reason to take you into custody, you may immediately feel panicked. Again, it is important to stay calm. You do not have to answer any questions, and you have the right to request an attorney.
Any number of details regarding the traffic stop and your arrest could affect your case, especially if the officer did not follow proper procedures, such as not having reason to stop your vehicle or conducting an unlawful search. As a result, you may want to remember as much as you can and write down those details. This information could be useful to your criminal defense later.