What are my rights if I’m pulled over by police?

If you are stopped by law enforcement in South Carolina, the officer may ask to do a search of your vehicle. It’s extremely important for you to know your rights in this case, as officers are beholden to a very specific set of rules when it comes to search and seizure.

As illustrated by Business Insider,  many people are misinformed regarding what law enforcement is actually permitted to do during a traffic stop. For instance, in the majority of cases an officer must produce a search warrant in order to inspect your vehicle. There are exceptions however, such as if contraband is readily visible within your car. This is known as “plain view”, and allows the officer the ability to conduct a search without a search warrant in place. If the officer does possess a warrant, you must consent to the search.

In terms of the initial stop, police must have a probable cause for pulling you over in the first place. Mere suspicion of wrongdoing is not enough for you to be stopped. Traffic infractions are, and these can include everything from speeding to broken taillights. Additionally, you are well within your rights to only stop when you feel it’s safe to do so. In this case, make attempts to signal the officer that you intend on pulling over as soon as you are able to do so without jeopardizing the safety of yourself or others.

If you encounter a checkpoint, you are obligated to stop despite the lack of probable cause. In the event you are asked to submit to a breathalyzer test during a checkpoint, you are allowed to refuse. You should be aware that some states utilize an implied consent law, which means that all licensed drivers have consented to testing. In this case, you may be faced with an automatic license of suspension of up to six months, even if you committed no crime. Other types of testing (such as blood tests intended to look for evidence of drug use) require probable cause to be performed. 

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