If you've gotten a traffic ticket in the past, you are definitely not the only South Carolina motorist who has faced such an outcome during a traffic stop. There's a big difference, however, between a police officer issuing you a speed warning or writing a ticket for traveling 5 miles over the posted speed limit and winding up in jail on suspicion of drunk driving or illegal drug possession.
Such matters typically carry very severe penalties under conviction although it's critical to remember that accusation does not constitute guilt. The right to dispute criminal charges against you is a guarantee. Your ability to mitigate your circumstances might begin long before an arrest, however. In fact, the more you know about your rights and what to do or not do during a traffic stop, the better off you'll be.
Keep these things in mind
It's easy to get quite nervous if you see patrol car lights flashing in your rearview mirror and you realize a police officer is attempting a traffic stop. By immediately showing the police officer (through signaling, adjusting speed and safely pulling off the road) that you understand what is happening and are complying with his or her request, you set the tone for a positive outcome. The following practical tips may be useful to help you avoid major problems in a traffic stop:
- Never make any sudden movements when a police officer approaches your vehicle. He or she may interpret it as a sign of aggression.
- Seek the officer's permission if you need to open your glove compartment or pocketbook, etc., to retrieve your driver's license or vehicle registration information.
- A police officer cannot know if you are reaching for your documentation or a weapon and can lawfully take aggressive action against you if your behavior poses a threat.
- You don't have to comply to a request to search your vehicle unless warranted.
- Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to exit your vehicle if the attending officer has not instructed you to do so.
- Be as polite, respectful and cooperative as possible.
- Do not say or do anything that is self-incriminating.
It may be easier to say that you should remain calm during a traffic stop than it is to do, but a cooperative, calm disposition is likely to play out in your favor. If you wind up facing DUI or illegal drug possession charges, you can immediately request assistance to begin building a strong defense to try to avoid conviction.