Know your rights when pulled over by traffic cops
There are five things every motorist needs to know when being pulled over in South Africa.
Metro Cops at a roadblock. For illustrative purposes. Picture: ANA
We all know that feeling of dread when pulled over by traffic officers on the road.
There are five key things you need to know when being pulled over by traffic officers, according to Zululand Observer:
Do you have to pull over?
A uniformed police officer has the right to stop any vehicle at any time, and if you are stopped by the police, you are obliged to give your name and address.
In terms of the National Road Traffic Act, a traffic officer does have the authority to demand your driver’s license, which by law must be kept on the driver or in the vehicle.
Does the officer have to identify themselves?
You have the right to request the officer to provide identification irrespective of whether or not they are in uniform. If the officer fails to provide an appointment certificate on demand, any actions that he or she takes will be unlawful.
Are they allowed to search your vehicle?
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa forbids arbitrary search of your person or seizure of your possessions. If you are stopped by law enforcement officials, they must have a valid belief you may have been involved in the commissioning of a crime.
A search warrant would be issued by a magistrate or judge if they wish to search you or your vehicle and/or seize your possessions.
This applies to random pull-overs where you are singled out by law enforcement authorities.
It does not apply to properly constituted roadblocks where search and seizure is in fact authorised prior to the roadblock being set up.
Can you be arrested for outstanding traffic fines?
Traffic officials cannot arrest or detain you for an outstanding traffic fine for which there is no warrant of arrest.
They may, however, serve you with a summons to appear in court for an outstanding traffic fine, provided the court date is at least 14 days from the date of issuing (excluding Sundays and Public Holidays).
If a law enforcement official wants to arrest you, you have the responsibility not to resist arrest in any way.
In addition, a police officer may order that the use of a vehicle considered unroadworthy be discontinued immediately. They may, alternatively, specify that the vehicle may only be used for a limited period or to reach a specific destination.
Can you refuse a breathalyser or blood test?
No person may refuse that a specimen of blood or breath be taken. If you do, not only can you be forcibly held down for a test sample to be taken (after you have been arrested and a docket opened), but you can also be prosecuted for refusing it.