Sandra Bland was laid to rest this past weekend . Ms. Bland’s arrest and death has been widely reported in the media. Questions linger on why she was arrested and the circumstances leading to her death. Coming back from court her story was featured on the radio program On Point . CNN ran a  video on a citizen’s rights during a traffic stop. What are a citizen’s rights during a traffic stop in Tennessee ?

Once stopped for a traffic violation a citizen must display the following;

  • A driver’s license.
  • Proof of vehicle registration.
  • Proof of automobile insurance.

Can the police order you out of your car ?

Under the U.S. Supreme Court case of Pennsylvania v. Mimms,  the court embraced the concept that a officer could order a citizen out of a car . The Tennessee Supreme Court in Donaldson ruled that a police officer could order a citizen out of their car during a traffic stop.

Can a Tennessee police officer arrest you for a traffic offense ?

The quick answer is yes. All state traffic citations are Class C misdemeanors . Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail. In reality , most police officers in Tennessee will issue a criminal citation in lieu of an arrest. Criminal cases may be dismissed if a police officer issued an arrest warrant instead of a criminal citation.

Here is the teaching point. Don’t fight your case in the street. Police have an advantage on the street. No pesky criminal defense lawyers are present. No judges are present. The police have weapons, tasers, and handcuffs. police are always worried about their safety. Treat police officers with respect. Most of the police officers will treat you with respect if you do likewise.

Rest in peace Ms. Bland.