3 things to know when stopped by police in traffic

Dash cam video that shows the moments when an Illinois woman was arrested in Texas, before dying three days later in her jail cell, is raising questions about an individual’s rights during traffic stops.

A Texas state trooper said he pulled over Sandra Bland for an improper lane change on July 10. Dash cam video shows Bland refusing the trooper’s request for her to put out her cigarette and exit the car. The trooper can then be heard shouting at Bland, even pulling out what appears to be a stun gun and saying “I will light you up.”

Raleigh criminal defense attorney Moseley Matheson told WNCN he believes the trooper was responsible for escalating the situation, but while he cannot comment on Texas law, Matheson said in North Carolina, people stopped in traffic need to know three things.

“You have to produce a license, you have to produce a registration and if the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, you do need to exit the vehicle, if the purpose, or the reason for exiting the vehicle is for officer safety,” Matheson said.

Matheson said, besides a search of one’s vehicle based on probable cause, there is not much else an officer can compel a driver to do.

“Beyond that, you don’t have to answer any questions,” Matheson said. “You don’t have to speak with them and you certainly don’t have to consent to anything.”

Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper reacted to that video on Wednesday saying she was “infuriated and everybody else should be infuriated as well.”

Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after that arrest. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide by hanging, but Bland’s family does not believe it.

The case has sparked a nationwide outcry. The trooper has been placed on administrative leave for violating an unspecified policy.

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