If you have been accused of or arrested for committing a crime in South Carolina, you have rights whether you are guilty or innocent. It is important that you know these rights before you end up in a bad situation so you know exactly what you do and do not have to say to law enforcement officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union provides a quick rundown of your rights. If you are stopped by police in public, you do not have to allow them to search your belongings or yourself. They may be able to pat your clothing down if they suspect there is a weapon. Asserting your rights may not stop the officer from searching you without consent, but it can protect you in a future legal proceeding if you made a timely objection. You also have the right to remain silent. You are entitled to an attorney and you do not have to respond to questions about whether you are a citizen, where you were born or how you got into the country.

To reduce risk to yourself, it is a good idea to stay calm and do not resist, obstruct or run from the officers. If you choose to give information, make sure it is true. Always keep your hands where they can be seen.

If you are arrested, you can simply say you want an attorney and state that want to remain silent. You do not owe any excuses or explanations for your behavior and it is recommended that you not make any decision until your attorney is present. After an arrest, you also have the right to one phone call, which police cannot listen to if you are speaking to your lawyer. They are able to listen if you choose to phone anyone else.

If you feel your rights have been violated, document as much information as possible. This includes patrol car numbers, badge numbers and witness contact information. If you have been injured, take pictures of the injury and ask for help immediately. Discuss your options with your criminal law attorney.

This is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.