In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for a traffic violation, it is important that you are aware of and understand your rights and responsibilities. Unfortunately, although corrupt traffic officials are rife in South Africa, the chances are very slim that they will simply arrest you for a reason that is not just.
However – there is no need to feel tense about driving on South Africa’s highways and byways – you simply need to ensure that you are not liable for any outstanding traffic fines, expired vehicle or drivers licenses, exceed the speed limit by terrifying speeds or are ever caught driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The list might seem like a mouthful but adhering to these simple rules is sure to keep you from spending time in the slammer. Despite your diligence, there is a possibility that you may ‘forget’ to renew the relevant documentation or pay a traffic fine, in which case; you may face arrest when pulled over by a traffic cop. Let’s discuss…
Be Accountable for your Actions
To be frank, as a South African citizen, you have the responsibility to abide by all of the laws of the road, no matter how inconsequential you may think they are. The best way in which to avoid altercations with the law is to abide by it, and do not test the tolerance levels of law enforcement officials. Pay any outstanding fines, ensure that your documentation is up to date, do not speed and obey the rules of the road. Keep in mind that there is no one else to blame in the event of your arrest – simply obey the law and you’re doing your part in keeping South African roads safe.
Know Your Rights
Understanding your rights is essential; especially if you want to ensure that your rights are not infringed upon or abused during your arrest. If a traffic officer indicates that he or she wants to pull you over, you have the right to indicate that you want to be taken to a police station if you don’t feel comfortable on the side of the road. It is important to note that this process is incredibly delicate and if not followed precisely, can result in your arrest. Be sure to follow the process below with the utmost attention to detail:
- Turn your hazard lights on and slow down as you pass the officers.
- Extend your right arm out of the window, at a 90 degree angle, and ensure that your hand is spread open wide.
- Gesture to the officers to follow you by moving your arm forwards and backwards.
- Drive at a steady speed of 40km/h and take note of the registration plate of the official vehicle.
- Once you get to the police station, keep your vehicle running and your hazard lights on, and roll down your window, ready to address the officer.
When you’re pulled over, you have the right to request the officer’s appointment certificate or identity card. If they do not present it to you, the officer in question is contravening the Criminal Procedure Act. You also have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of what you are being charged for; you also have the responsibility to treat the arresting officer with respect. A male traffic officer may not physically search a female and vice versa. If an officer disobeys this, you are to report it immediately. The South African Constitution also prohibits any search or seizure of your vehicle. If an officer believes that you’re committing any crimes, a search warrant needs to be presented to conduct a search.
If you happen to be arrested and are taken to the nearest police station, your first call should be to a lawyer and then to a family member. Remember that what you say and how you act will be monitored and, can possibly, be used against you in the event of a court trial.
While you may be a diligent driver, there are those who have little to no regard for the law. Be sure that your vehicle is protected with a reliable vehicle insurance policy. In the event of a collision, your insurance provider will ensure that you receive the assistance that you need. If you have yet to invest in car insurance, be sure to request and compare various insurance quotes as soon as possible.
If you ever find yourself in the situation where you’ve been arrested for a traffic violation, it is important that you know and understand your rights and responsibilities. Take a look at the following guide – it might just be your saving grace!
MiWay is a direct, short-term insurance provider offering a range of value-for-money insurance products. As well as motor, household, homeowners and business insurance, there are also add-on products such as warranty cover and liability cover. Also check out the new MiWay eBook, Traffic Fines: The Facts & Fictions.