Once the vehicle is safely stopped the motorist should roll down the window, turn off the engine, and put both hands on the steering
wheel. This action sends a clear message (to the law enforcement officer) that the motorist intends on cooperating. Sometimes even the most cooperative motorist may be stopped by a police officer who
appears nervous or agitated. A law enforcement officer is killed almost every day in the United States while conducting a “routine traffic stop.” It is easy to understand why a police officer may
seem a bit nervous upon initial contact with an unknown motorist. My years of experience as a criminal defense attorney
lead me to the conclusion that 99% (plus) of police officers are honest and hard working men and women. So how should a motorist
react when stopped by the (less than) one percent (i.e. bad apples) of law enforcement?
The motorist should still obey all police commands in order to protect the safety of the motorist, the police officer and the
public. A traffic stop is not the time to determine guilt or innocence (or to protest). If a motorist feels he or she is being treated unfairly, the motorist should immediately protect herself
or himself by obeying all police commands and exercising his or her constitutional right to remain silent.
Once the police officer makes initial contact (with the motorist) the motorist should remain with both
hands on the steering wheel. The motorist should not reach for anything until the law enforcement officer asks for the motorist's drivers license and vehicle registration. Once the police officer
asks for the motorist's drivers license and vehicle registration the motorist should comply. After handing both the license and registration to the police officer the motorist should return both
hands to the steering wheel. The motorist should not exit the vehicle unless the police
officer has requested the motorist to exit.
Remember, as a citizen of the United States you are presumed innocent until proven guilty so a traffic stop is not the time to protest.
Anything you say can and will be used against you so it is important to remain silent while obeying all police commands. If you are arrested, your first call should be to a criminal defense attorney
or traffic lawyer. If you resist arrest, you will probably face additional charge(s) in a criminal court. Look out for your own best interest with the following procedure:
1. Roll down the window.
2. Turn the vehicle engine off.
3. Put both hands on the steering wheel.
4. Obey all police commands
5. Exercise your constitutional right to remain silent.
Travis Newton practices law in South Carolina's 10th and 13th Judicial Circuits including all of Upstate South
Carolina. Newton & Campbell Law P.A. is located at 111 Sharpe Street Anderson, South Carolina 29621 and can be reached at
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