Anyone who has ever been pulled over by a police officer understands the nerve racking feeling that can come during a police stop. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s hard not to worry when you feel you are under such intense scrutiny from law enforcement authorities.
In some cases, the officer might ask to search your car, or if the incident occurs at your residence, to search the house. This can be an intimidating moment for many people who may not fully understand their rights and responsibilities. To find out more about what your rights are in the event of a South Carolina police search, keep reading.
Your Rights During a South Carolina Police Search
When you are interacting with a South Carolina law enforcement official you should understand that you have the right to refuse to consent to the search of your person, your car or your home. You also have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions put forward by officers. Individuals who are not formally under arrest have the right to leave the encounter. If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney and you should be sure to avail yourself of this right as soon as possible.
Your Responsibilities During a Police Search in South Carolina
Though Americans are protected from police intrusion and have a wide array of rights designed to guarantee our freedoms, there are certain responsibilities and obligations that come along with these rights. For one thing, you are responsible for not obstructing or interfering with a police investigation. You must not lie when asked direct questions and you cannot provide false identification documents. You also have the responsibility of remaining calm in the face of a police encounter, as behaving aggressively or disrespectfully will only compound your troubles.
What to do if you’re on the street
If you’re out for a walk and are approached by a police officer the first thing to remember is to remain calm. It’s quite possible you’ve done nothing wrong and the officer is simply stopping to talk. Remain calm and find out the reason for the stop. You have every right to ask if you are free to leave. If the police officer indicates that you are, you are welcome to simply walk away. If the officer asks to conduct a search of your person, know that you have the right to withhold consent. Though you can refuse consent for a search, police officers are typically permitted to conduct a “pat down” to check for weapons.
Understand that if you do consent to a physical search that consent cannot easily be rescinded if the officer finds something incriminating. Your decision to authorize the search can be used against you later should criminal charges be pursued.
What to do if you’re in your car
If you’ve been stopped by a police officer while driving you should know that there are certain things you are required to provide. You must show the officer your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, if asked. However, you have no obligation to allow officers to look inside your car and you are allowed to refuse consent for a search.
One exception to the search rule for vehicles is that if the police have reason to suspect your vehicle contains evidence of a crime, then the car can be searched even without your consent. If that’s the case, remain calm and stay out of the officer’s way. The last thing you want is to add an obstruction of justice charge to whatever the police may find.
What to do if you’re at home
It can be most alarming to have a police officer show up unannounced at your doorstep. Though you might be taken aback, realize that you do not have to let the officer inside unless he or she has a warrant. Though you have the right to remain silent, if you choose to speak to the police, simply step outside and close the door behind you, not leaving any room for the officers to scan the interior of your house.
If the officer does have a warrant you are allowed to ask to see it. The warrant authorizes officers to enter the residence at the address listed on the document, but should specify exactly where and what the officers are allowed to search for. Remember that even if the officers have a warrant, your right to remain silent continues and you can choose not to answer any questions.
What to do if you think your rights have been violated
If you believe officers have somehow infringed on your rights the first thing to understand is that it does no good to fight the matter on the streets. Instead, remain calm and try and remember as many details of the incident as possible. The moment you are free to contact a South Carolina criminal defense attorney, do so. Repeat the details of your encounter to your lawyer and discuss your possible options for either filing a formal complaint or challenging any criminal charges you may be facing in court.
If you’ve been arrested in South Carolina it’s crucial that you hire a South Carolina criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate such complicated legal matters. Experience matters when handling serious criminal issues and you don’t want to take any chances when your freedom is at stake. David Aylor understands how scary the criminal justice system can be and is here to guide you through the process. If you or someone you know has been arrested and is in need of South Carolina criminal defense lawyer, feel free to contact David Aylor today at 843.577.5530.