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Knowing your rights at traffic stops; local attorney gives expert advice

A small exchange over putting out a cigarette changed the dynamic of what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

\"I don't necessarily agree with some of the things she did,\" said Jonathan Safran, civil rights attorney. \"I wouldn't have recommended that she argue with the officer to put the cigarette out.\"

But it ignited a Texas law enforcement officer to demand Sandra Bland to get out of the car and try to forcefully remove her. The reason why is unclear by Safran.

\"He has to articulate why she's being detained,\" he said. \"It sounded to me and looked as though the officer escalated this situation way out of proportion.\"

Safran said that goes against what officers are trained to do.

\"Police officers are trained to de-escalate a situation. They don't want there to be a confrontation,\" he said. \"It is their job usually to get through a traffic stop as quickly as they can.\"

Watching the video, Safran said Bland was within her rights and didn't do anything wrong, but said there was a better way for her to handle the situation.

Once you're pulled over and you see the officer approaching the car, Safran recommends turning off the radio and the car's engine. Also, keep your hands on the steering wheel and don't make any sudden movements.

Safran said you do have the right to ask questions about why you were pulled over, but don't take it so far that you get into an argument.

\"It's a delicate balance,\" he said. \"Police have a lot of rights and authority people generally don't have, but it's always best to comply with their orders because the alternatives are not good.\"

If you feel your rights were violated during a traffic stop, Safran said to take action after your citation by filing a complaint or hiring an attorney.
 

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