'Motorists have rights': NCCU law professor shares driver safety tips for police traffic stops

With two traffic stops of black men garnering national attention, many people are discussing ways to better protect themselves during interactions with police officers.

For Irving Joyner, a School of Law professor at N.C. Central University, it's about knowing your rights.

"Motorists have rights that they are not subjects of police officers and that those rights must be protected," said Joyner.

The recent shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Minnesota and the release of body cam footage in Virginia of two officers using excessive force against Army officer Caron Nazario are signs of continued implicit bias within law enforcement, according to Joyner.

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Which begs the question: is there a proper way for drivers to handle traffic stops?

Legal experts like Joyner say pulling over in a well-lit spot, remaining calm and always being respectful towards law enforcement can help de-escalate the situation yourself.

If there are multiple officers on the scene providing conflicting commands, Joyner says to calmly get them to clarify so you're not put in a potentially dangerous situation.

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When it comes to minor traffic stop violations, Joyner tells Eyewitness News that officers should never ask you to get out of your vehicle; however, that doesn't mean they can't.

"The Supreme Court has indicated that that is legal for a police officer to do under proper circumstances," Joyner said.

When those moments arise, attorneys say to comply and live to fight another day. Joyner says, even if you're in the right, it's not worth the potential grief, "the courtroom is the proper forum to bring complaints about police misconduct....You cannot win this fight in the street."

During the detainment process, Joyner recommends using either a cell phone or audio device to record the interaction. He also says it never hurts to ask witnesses around you to do the same for your court case.

Joyner acknowledges that each of these steps don't always guarantee a successful interaction, noting that Second lieutenant Nazario did everything correctly and was still treated with excessive force for a simple traffic stop in Virginia but says it's something for drivers to consider.
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