May 25, 2017

Your rights in a roadblock

With the alarming number of fatalities on our roads in recent months the Metro Police and the SAPS have been out in full force. Unfortunately, due to corruption and dishonesty, you can never be sure of the intentions of an officer when being pulled over. So, what are you legally required to do?

A uniformed police officer has the right to stop any vehicle at any time and you are obliged to furnish the officer with your name and address, if it requested from you. This duty is extended to any other particulars concerning your identity. However, this obligation works both ways, and you can request that the officer identifies himself so it may be confirmed that he has the authority he claims. Should he not be able to prove his identity/authority any action he/she takes will be in violation of the Criminal Procedure Act and thus be unlawful.

If an officer believes that a car is not in a roadworthy state he may demand that the use of such a vehicle is discontinued immediately or specify a certain time limit within which it may be used or a destination to which it may be used. Once that destination has been reached or the time limit has expired, the car would not be considered roadworthy and its use would be illegal.

Arguably, a more effective means of enforcing road rules is for traffic officers to set up a roadblock. It could also be safer for motorists as there are many people around and you do not feel as intimidated or wary as when you are pulled over by a single officer. A positive about these roadblocks, for motorists at least, is that they need to be properly authorised by the issuing of a certificate from the National Commissioner. A motorist may request to see this certificate and failure by an officer to produce this would render any actions taken at the roadblock unlawful and unenforceable.

A tactic often employed by officers at these roadblocks, in an attempt to intimidate motorists, is to ask if they have any outstanding fines and threaten to arrest the motorist, forcing them to spend a night in jail, if they find outstanding fines upon ‘scanning’ their licenses. This threat is completely hollow as an officer has no authority to detain a motorist for an outstanding fine for which there is no warrant of arrest. What they may do is serve you with a summons to appear in court within 14 ‘work days’, but they may not demand payment then and there. It must also be kept in mind that officers may search your vehicle at properly constituted roadblocks.

If at any time a situation should go ‘pear shaped’ once you have been pulled over and officers want to detain and arrest you, you must be informed of your rights immediately when you are arrested and they must take you straight to a police station.

Finally, whether at a roadblock or any other situation where an officer has stopped a motorist, a male officer may not, under any circumstances, search a female and vice versa.

Although the above is useful to know and will come in handy whenever the frustration of being pulled over occurs, it can all be avoided if you simply obey the law, pay fines and cooperate with an officer.

With the alarming number of fatalities on our roads in recent months the Metro Police and the SAPS have been out in full force. Unfortunately, due to corruption and dishonesty, one can never be sure of the intentions of an officer when being pulled over. So, what is one legally required to do?

A uniformed police officer has the right to stop any vehicle at any time and you are obliged to furnish the officer with your name and address, if it requested from you. This duty is extended to any other particulars concerning your identity. However, this obligation works both ways, and you can request that the officer identifies himself so it may be confirmed that he has the authority he claims. Should he not be able to prove his identity/authority any action he/she takes will be in violation of the Criminal Procedure Act and thus be unlawful.

If an officer believes that a car is not in a roadworthy state he may demand that the use of such a vehicle is discontinued immediately or specify a certain time limit within which it may be used or a destination to which it may be used. Once that destination has been reached or the time limit has expired, the car would not be considered roadworthy and its use would be illegal.
Arguably, a more effective means of enforcing road rules is for traffic officers to set up a roadblock. It could also be safer for motorists as there are many people around and you do not feel as intimidated or wary as when you are pulled over by a single officer. A positive about these roadblocks, for motorists at least, is that they need to be properly authorised by the issuing of a certificate from the National Commissioner. A motorist may request to see this certificate and failure by an officer to produce this would render any actions taken at the roadblock unlawful and unenforceable.

A tactic often employed by officers at these roadblocks, in an attempt to intimidate motorists, is to ask if they have any outstanding fines and threaten to arrest the motorist, forcing them to spend a night in jail, if they find outstanding fines upon ‘scanning’ their licenses. This threat is completely hollow as an officer has no authority to detain a motorist for an outstanding fine for which there is no warrant of arrest. What they may do is serve you with a summons to appear in court within 14 ‘work days’, but they may not demand payment then and there. It must also be kept in mind that officers may search your vehicle at properly constituted roadblocks.

If at any time a situation should go ‘pear shaped’ once you have been pulled over and officers want to detain and arrest you, you must be informed of your rights immediately when you are arrested and they must take you straight to a police station.

Finally, whether at a roadblock or any other situation where an officer has stopped a motorist, a male officer may not, under any circumstances, search a female and vice versa.
Although the above is useful to know and will come in handy whenever the frustration of being pulled over occurs, it can all be avoided if you simply obey the law, pay fines and cooperat with an officer.

Author: James Bush

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