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Traffic Stops and Interacting with the Police While Carrying a Firearm

It’s never a fun time when you are going about your day, maybe jamming out to your favorite tunes in your car and you become a little heavy footed on the gas pedal. The very next thing you notice is the long arm of the law behind you with those blue flashing lights. Immediately you feel a light sweat coming on and your heart begins to beat double time. It’s a moment a pure dread for some and can be a particularly concerning time for citizens who have firearms in the vehicle or on their person. The dread of the traffic stop stems from different causes. In one instance, you may receive a ticket and suffer financial burden over the event, maybe being confronted by authority figures makes you uneasy, or even worse maybe you have witnessed an abuse of power by law enforcement on tv or in person and are completely uneasy with dealing with law enforcement in general. To the last statement abuse of police power is a real thing, however I do not believe this isn’t reflective of all police and all police agencies. I have personally been friends of and mentored by some very good men and women who have served in law enforcement and have the upmost respect for them. However, it only takes a few bad apples to sully the good name of many. In this blog I hope to open your eyes to the nature of traffic stops and to give you some tips which I hope will help to keep you safe if you ever find yourself in a roadside encounter with law enforcement.

The Initial Traffic Stop

Once you see those blue lights behind you and you know for sure the officer is intending for you to pull over you need to do so as quickly and as safely as possible in a location out of the main flow of traffic. Areas to be mindful of not blocking as you pull over are driveways, or entrances/exits to businesses/shopping centers as people will be trying to ingress and egress from these locations. If the stop is initiated at night in a secluded rural area that is poorly lit and you feel is unsafe to pull over, turn on your hazard lights to acknowledge you notice the officer’s commands, reduce your speed, and pull over at the earliest safe area. Once pulled over, you already know the routine of what will be asked for, license, registration, and proof of insurance. Why not save yourself some stress in an already stressful situation and have those items housed relatively close together in an organized fashion and have them out before the officer approaches your window? If you keep a handgun or other weapon in the car that is not holstered on your body, I would make it a habit to not house the gun and your vehicular information in the same area. Doing this will avoid any particular dicey moments of you reaching in the direction where a weapon is located during the course of the traffic stop. From there wait in your car with your documents on your lap or the dash and your hands on the steering wheel in plain view. Never leave your car unless requested by the officer. Leaving your vehicle, especially with the purpose of approaching the officer’s vehicle is going to be perceived as an odd if not threatening behavior by the officer which may lead to a use of some degree of force to control the situation. Once the officer gets to your window in SC the officer is required by law to state their name/rank, display their badge on uniform, the law enforcement agency they represent, and state the nature of their business with you. At this point if you are a concealed carry permit holder and have your firearm on you or within the vehicle cabin about you, you must inform the officer of this and present your CWP license. From this point going forward the motorist should follow all lawful directives of the law enforcement officer during the duration of the stop. It is very important that during the stop the motorist does not reach in the general direction of weapons or make sudden undisclosed movements. If you have been asked to retrieve anything within the vehicle, it is important to get verbal confirmation from the officer first that it is ok to do so before making a movement.

Concealed Carry Permit Holders with Firearms in the Vehicle or On Person

Per SC Law Section 23-31-215 A permit holder has a duty to inform a law enforcement officer that they are carrying/transporting a firearm about them during the conduction of official police duties. The concealed carry permit holder is also required to have present their proof of CWP. A person in violation of this provision is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is to be fined $25.00

A person with a valid SC CWP permit may lawfully keep a firearm in their vehicle in the following locations…







Not A Concealed Carry Permit Holder with Firearm in Legal Location of Vehicle

If you are transporting a legal firearm in the vehicle which is not carried on your person, without a SC CWP you may lawfully keep the gun in any of the following locations…




4. CLOSED CONTAINER SECURED BY AN INTEGRAL FASTENER AND TRANSPORTED IN THE LUGGAGE COMPARTMENT OF THE VEHICLE. (Luggage compartment as defined as the trunk or the most rearward available seat of the vehicle, where one would anticipate to carry luggage.)

A person without a SC CWP is not under duty by law to disclose that there is a firearm lawfully contained within the vehicle.

Are You Required To Answer Questions Like “Do You Know Why I Stopped You?” or “Where Are You Coming From?”

You are not required to answer these questions during a stop, the officer may be taken aback or become suspicious, but it is not mandatory to answer by law. You can always invoke your 5th amendment rights and remain silent. Remember, your traffic violation can always be heard in court. You have the right to not self-incriminate.

Is It Lawful to Record the Police During A Stop?

You can record police officers in public spaces as long as it does not interfere with the performance of their lawful duty or violate any other laws in the process. Also if you are feeling uneasy about a traffic stop or feel your rights are being violated, you should request a supervisor to the scene. Try to remain calm in your interaction with the officer, do your best to comply while in the moment, document the interaction and have your day in court to have justice later on outside of the moment. Don't forfeit your constitutional rights protecting you against unlawful searches and seizures without warrant or probable cause, your protections against self-incrimination, and in criminal circumstances, your right to a fair, speedy, and public trial by an impartial jury, and the right to defense counsel.

What If I Fear I Was Pulled Over by a Criminal Imposter?

If you feel something is not quite right with the person or vehicle that has pulled you over call 911. Give the dispatcher your name, vehicle description, location, and license plate number. The dispatcher will be able to confirm if you have been pulled over by an actual police officer or not. Follow the instructions of the dispatcher from there.

Truth is traffic stops can be a bit nerve racking and scary for both parties involved. Following these tips can help to keep your rights protected and keep you safe during a traffic stop you might find yourself involved in one day.

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