Most South Carolina residents will get pulled over by police at some point. Most of these stops are for minor traffic violations, like failing to stop at a stop sign or driving with a broken taillight. However, even in these low stakes stops, people may feel nervous and unsure of their actions.

South Carolina residents can help deescalate these situations by understanding and exercising their rights. The following guidelines can help individuals work with police quickly and safely while legally protecting themselves.

Exercising one’s constitutional rights

No laws prevent police officers from lying when interacting with their community. Often, police will attempt to antagonize people to give up their rights or say something that enables an arrest. The following guidelines can help South Carolina residents keep a cool head and protect their rights:

  • Remain silent: Among a person’s constitutional rights is the right not to say anything that would implicate themselves. When a cop asks questions, no law compels a person to answer. If pressed, a person can inform the officer they are exercising their right to remain silent.
  • Do not consent to a search: Police cannot search one’s person, belongings, car, or house without a warrant, probable cause or consent. If an officer performs an unlawful search, make sure to state one’s lack of consent clearly. Do not physically resist under any circumstances.
  • Inquire if one is free to leave: If the conversation seems circular, this may indicate that police are attempting to push a person to say something that implicates a crime. At any point, people can ask if they are free to go. If the officer refuses the request, a person can ask if they are under arrest. The officer may decide to make an arrest. If this happens, do not resist or argue, request to speak to a lawyer.
  • Collect evidence: South Carolina residents should record all interactions with police. Collect the names and badge numbers of all involved officers and write down all relevant details.

Contact a lawyer

Anyone arrested during one of these stops can find help from a local lawyer familiar with criminal defense. An attorney can offer counsel on what to say to the police, work with the courts to get charges dropped or help formulate a defense.