Being stopped by law enforcement can be a frightening experience, especially given the recent media coverage of incidents of police brutality. There are many reasons why an officer might stop you: they may wish to question you, they may suspect you have committed or witnessed a crime, they may suspect you are possession of illegal substances. In any situation, it is important to remain calm and respectful.
If You Are Stopped For Questioning
As outlined by the ACLU, you are not legally obligated to answer any questions. Even if you witness a crime, you are generally not obligated to report it. The notable exception in South Carolina is if you were to witness a crime against a child while acting in a professional capacity. In most cases it is best to be cooperative with police, but always keep your own best interest in mind. If the police believe you have committed a crime, you can be arrested and taken to jail. Even if the charges are eventually dropped, it can be a damaging experience.
- Ask if you are free to leave;
- Calmly walk away; and
- Be polite and respectful.
- Attempt to flee;
- Confront the officer; or
- Provide false information.
If you are stopped and questioned, you have the right to remain silent. If you are stopped, law enforcement may ask to search you. You have the right to refuse to be searched. Simply state “I do not consent to a search.” The officer may proceed with the search if they have reasonable cause they will find evidence of a crime. If the officer believes he finds evidence of a crime, you may be arrested according the South Carolina Code of Laws SECTION 17-13-30:
The sheriffs and deputy sheriffs of this state may arrest without warrant any and all persons who, within their view, violate any of the criminal laws of this state if such arrest be made at the time of such violation of law or immediately thereafter.
Contact An Attorney If You Are Arrested
You have a right to know why you are being arrested. You have the right to ask what you are being charged with and the officer is required to answer. Do not resist arrest, doing so will only make the situation worse and you may face additional criminal penalties. It may be difficult, but try to record as many details of the arrest as possible. You can ask for the officer’s badge and patrol car number. If you feel your rights were violated, you can file a complaint. If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney and should contact one as soon as possible. While you are speaking with your attorney, you have the right to confidentiality. Police officers are not allowed to listen in on your call if you so request.
You will need knowledgeable and competent legal guidance to help with your arrest and any charges you may face. Aaron De Bruin is a Greenville defense attorney dedicated to helping clients who are facing difficult legal challenges. Call us today, or schedule a consultation with our attorneys now if you are facing criminal charges or have been arrested.