Do you really know what to do if you get pulled over by law enforcement?
Lt. Curtis Wilson of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department told South Carolina Radio Network that drivers and passengers need to remain calm. “So basically, of course stay in the vehicle,” he said. “Getting out would cause alarm or alert the deputy. Definitely stay in the vehicle.”
Nationwide, law enforcement is coming under increased scrutiny for traffic stops that escalated into an officer or deputy shooting the driver. Some, such as the killing of Walter Scott as he fled from a struggle, have led to misconduct charges against the officer. But, in a majority of cases, investigators have deemed the officer either behaved properly or was in reasonable fear of his or her life.
Another tip is to always keep your hands where the officer can see them. “Keep your hands visible. If you’re the driver maybe put them on the steering wheel. If you’re a passenger keep just keep them in plain view, put them on the dash if you’re comfortable with that,” Wilson said.
Deputies may stop a motorist for these reasons:
- Traffic violations
- Probable cause to make an arrest
- Reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based on personal observations and information from other officers, the police radio or a witness.
- Outstanding warrants.
- A deputy can also stop for minor infractions such as darkly tinted windows, inoperative equipment or failing to signal before a turn.
“If it’s at night you definitely want to turn on the dome light so the deputy can see inside the vehicle,” said Wilson.
A “Terry Stop” of a vehicle is when a law enforcement officer may stop vehicles for questions, if the deputy reasonably suspects that the driver in the vehicle has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. The officer is not required to have probable cause to arrest the individual at the time of contact, but may have reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity.
Evidence obtained through a Terry Stop of a vehicle is acceptable as long as it was the result of a reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred.