Your rights in a roadblock
As we gear down for the end of the year, roadblocks are more likely to start cropping up. If you get stopped in one, knowing your rights (and responsibilities) can protect you.
First off, it’s important to distinguish between the two types of roadblocks: An informal roadblock, which is typically intended to catch drunk drivers or look out for any other infringements; and a K78 roadblock, which is ordered by the National Police Commissioner to find criminals or vehicles involved in a crime.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re pulled over in a roadblock:
1. You have to stop
If uniformed police or traffic officer signals you to stop, you are required by law to do so.
2. Confirm the roadblock’s authenticity
You have the right to ask for the police officer’s identification. In a K78 roadblock, you are entitled to see the letter from the National Police Commissioner which authorises the roadblock.
3. You have to show identification, too
The officer may ask for your driver’s licence and your ID. They might also ask for your vehicle’s licence (if you don’t have it on you, you’ll need to take it to a police station within seven days).
4. At ordinary roadblocks, officers need a warrant to search your vehicle
Unless the officer has reasonable grounds to search your vehicle without a warrant, they must produce one. You have the right to see the warrant before the search is conducted.
However, at a K78 roadblock, any car can be searched with a warrant, and officers can seize any items that are illegal or are suspected to be connected to a crime.
5. You might be asked for a breathalyser test
You cannot refuse a breathalyser test, but you have the right to ensure a clean, untainted machine is used. If the test shows your blood alcohol levels to be above the legal limit, you will be taken to a mobile unit, clinic or hospital to have blood drawn for further tests. Here, you have the right to insist on sterile, clean equipment, and a police officer must be present when the blood is drawn. You can refuse the tests until these conditions are met. Your own doctor can perform the test, as long as they can come to you within two hours.
6. You might be searched
While you cannot refuse a physical search, you have the right to be searched by an officer of the same gender.
7. You cannot be forced to pay for outstanding fines
You can only be arrested for outstanding fines if a warrant is produced.
8. You can be arrested for other infringements
You can be arrested if:
- Police suspect you are/have been involved in any criminal activity
- You are driving under the influence
- You were driving recklessly
- You were obstructing the roadway
- You were driving without a valid licence
- You verbally or physically abused an officer
If you are arrested, officers must immediately recite your rights. You must be taken directly to the nearest police station (where you may apply for bail, unless you have committed a serious offence), and you must appear in court within two days.