Depending on whether the police has reasonable suspicion or probable cause, the officers are lawfully able to utilize several different techniques for investigative purposes. However, there are certain instances where the police stop is unlawful and is not based on reasonable suspicion. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the stoppage, courts have found that certain force conduct interferes with an individual’s 4th Amendment rights which protects against unlawful search and seizures.
Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (RAS)
In Terry v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a police officer may briefly stop, detain, and question a person for investigative purposes without encroaching on the persons 4th Amendment rights. For the Terry stop to be lawful, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that is supported by reasonable articulable facts that the person is engaged in criminal activity.
Reasonable articulable suspicion requires a particularized and objective basis that the suspect is involved in criminal activity. RAS is determined by taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances. The police must be able to articulate facts and what is known to them at the time of the stop that led them to believe that the particular individual that they stopped is involved in criminal conduct.
Refusing to Talk to the Police
If a person is being blocked solely because he or she refuses to answer the police officers questions, the stoppage is not supported by reasonable articulable suspicion. Without more evidence to show the officer had RAS, the police stop is unlawful and they must let the individual go.
In the United States, there are twenty-six states that have a “Stop and Identify” statute. These require an individual to pause and establish themselves when requested by law enforcement. South Carolina is one of the twenty-four states that do not have one of these statutes. Because there is no “Stop and Identify” statute in South Carolina, it is lawful for an individual to refuse to talk to police officers as they have no obligation to respond to their questions.
In South Carolina, for law enforcement to lawfully stop an individual, the block must be based on reasonable articulable suspicion. The stoppage cannot be based on a refusal to talk to police officers, a hunch, or an inkling of wrongdoing.
About the Author
John Henderson is a car accident attorney with Henderson & Henderson law firm in Charleston SC. He is familiar with all driving situations (distracted, dui, fatal, hit and run, major crash, minor collision, stopped by law enforcement, texting, wreck) and all kinds of vehicles (including motorcycles and trucks). If you or someone you know was stopped by law enforcement and the stop was not supported by RAS, contact John or call (843) 212-3188.