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Understanding your rights during a traffic stop.

One of the most frightening moments for a motorist is seeing police lights behind while you’re driving home. Whether you’ve been eating out and had a few drinks with dinner or were visiting friends, there could be a fine line between sobriety and being over the limit for driving. 

Knowing your legal obligations in a traffic stop

There are many myths out there claiming what your rights are during a routine traffic stop, but these claims miss many of the nuances and consequences of specific actions during your police interactions. Here are some clarifications regarding your rights when stopped by the police:

  • Implied consent: You have the right to refuse a chemical sobriety test, but that refusal may lead to serious legal repercussions. South Carolina has implied consent laws, which means that any motorist traveling on state roads or with a South Carolina license consents to such tests in the event of a traffic stop. The penalties could involve severe fines and loss of your license. 
  • The right to remain silent: Police only read you your Miranda Rights, including the right to remain silent if you are under arrest. During a traffic stop, you also have the right to remain silent and to (politely) refuse to answer any questions that might incriminate yourself. An officer can cite anything you say as evidence against you in court. 
  • Vehicle searches: An officer can use anything they can see in plain sight from outside the car as grounds for searching the vehicle. Anything that gives them probable cause would allow them to search your vehicle; otherwise, they need a warrant. If an officer asks to search your car, you have the right to refuse a voluntary search. However, in some circumstances, if your vehicle smells of alcohol or drugs, then a police officer may meet the probable cause standard and search anyway. 

Exercising your rights

It’s crucial to be aware of your rights before stopped by the police. The police have the potential to infringe on a motorist’s rights. If you were charged with a DUI or another traffic violation, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore the options available to you.