If I was caught drink driving, will I have the chance to leave South Africa like vacation to other countries? Will I encounter any problems with the Immigration in the airport like holding my departure because of this matter?
Firstly, I am going to be very honest with you and will say that the fact that you said “I was caught drink driving” would ordinarily cause me to not even bother wasting my time and effort responding, given that you have effectively admitted that you were indeed driving under the influence of alcohol and I truly hate – in the most literal sense of the word – people who do that. But the issue here is one of the South African criminal justice system and for that reason, I am going to respond.
For all of its woes, and believe me, there are plenty of them, there are certain parts of our criminal justice system that still hold true the principle of section 35(3)(h) of the Constitution which says that “every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent, to remain silent, and not to testify during the proceedings.”
This quite simply means that unless a Magistrate or Judge specifically makes it a condition of bail that a passport be surrendered; which I might add is very rare indeed, there is nothing preventing anyone who has been charged with a crime from going on holiday, or for that matter – skipping the country entirely. There is one proviso however and a twist to this story in that if a trial date or subsequent court date set due to postponement is missed by an accused person and they don’t attend court on that day, an immediate warrant for their arrest will be issued. If they were to have been outside of South Africa at the time of missing the trial and then subsequently returned, there is a good chance that the warrant would be executed at the airport on their return.
The biggest problem with the prosecution of contravention of Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act is and remains the length of time that it takes for blood test results to come back and for this reason, most of these cases endure multiple postponements. It is my belief that this is unjust since it impedes a person’s right to a speedy trial under section 35(3)(d) of the Constitution. Where people are in fact innocent of the crime they have been accused of committing (not specifically drink driving), their rights under the Constitution are infringed, and where they are guilty, society’s right to have criminals dealt with justly and swiftly by the criminal justice are similarly infringed.
South Africa has a massive problem with drink-driving and the mere fact that we have one of the highest road death statistics in the world, coupled with the fact that almost 60% of these road deaths involve alcohol abuse is glaringly obvious evidence that something must be done to deter this behaviour and the need for it to be done in an effective and speedy manner is overwhelming. I urge you and everyone who reads this to consider the fact that driving under the influence of intoxicating substances, no matter how low an amount this may be, could very easily result in them maiming or killing someone – or if they don’t care about others – themselves.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)
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