Rights and Obligations when Stopped by a Traffic Officer

Traffic officers have the right to stop car drivers at any time, as long as they are wearing the uniform. Here, you are obliged to provide all requested details.

However, much of society do not know or consider their rights when stopped at a roadblock. Here is CarZar’s take on your rights and obligations when stopped by a traffic officer.


Rights & Responsibilities in roadblocks

Traffic officers always give the impression that you have no right but to settle fines on the spot; sometimes even threatening an arrest. However, when stopped by a traffic officer, you have the right to request proof of identification from them – uniform or not – as well as their appointment form. A traffic officer cannot arrest you for not paying any traffic fines, without a ‘warrant of arrest’.

Camera and speeding fines

There are various false information and misinterpretations of camera and speeding fines. When taking into account vehicle speed measuring devices and cameras, it is important to be aware of the Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures for Traffic Control and Traffic Control Equipment (TCSP) – in order to avoid being scammed into spending inordinate amounts of money.

Here are the laws to take into account when receiving camera and speeding fines:

  • All equipment must be operated by a qualified traffic officer.
  • Speed trap cannot be positioned within 300-meters speed limit zone start.
  • Cameras used, must have a camera warning sign – unless the DPP states it to be unnecessary.
  • Camera evidence must include readable and viewable data.
  • Speed-measuring equipment (SME) must be firmly mounted on a tripod.
  • You have the right to receive a free photograph of your offence.

Distributing traffic fines correctly

Every law states that one is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – something that courts often forget by immediately presuming you to be guilty. This is your right but it is still your responsibility to sign for summons or AARTO infringements. It is unethical for traffic authorities to hand-in fines to debt collectors, who then use extortion tactics to scare offenders into paying. Act processes do not state that fines must be handed over to debt collectors.

Fines issued under the CPA, NRTA and AART

The Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) states that officers that cannot produce an appointment certificate to traffic offenders, violates the Act and would therefore be in violation of the law if they should continue any actions. When receiving an offence under the CPA, you may admit guilt and pay immediately, represent yourself to the traffic authority before the payment deadline, or wait for a ‘Section 54’ summons.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) states that it is your responsibility to provide a driver’s license, upon request to do so. In cases where the vehicle is considered not roadworthy, a police officer can request discontinuation of the vehicle after a particular time period or destination, and remove the license disk.

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) presumes guilt of infringers and offenders need to prove their own innocence. It moves traffic fines from criminal offences to civil proceedings; which becomes a 30 year ‘debt’ prescription to the State, after executing the warrant. Here, police authorities are entitled to remove your moveable assets to pay for your fines.

eNaTIS and traffic fines

Not dealing with outstanding traffic fines and claiming it to be unreceived is essentially a criminal offense. It is your responsibility to ensure that all your traffic fines are paid up before the deadline; however you do have the lawful right to represent or defend yourself in court.

In most cases, claiming that ‘you have not received the traffic fine’ could work in a case where you have changed addresses without notifying any traffic department authorities. However, this is excuse will not work a second time as it is your responsibility, under the National Road Traffic Act and Regulations, that you make your way to your nearest Traffic Department and change your address within 21 days of relocating. If not, you will be fined – again.

In changing your licensing address, it is also your responsibility to complete the correct documents. This help you avoid the hassle of dealing with any errors and instead, guarantee your change of address details.
Consequences of overlooking traffic fines

Ignoring traffic fines under AARTO is a criminal offense and may load you with heavy penalty impact. The process takes 6 months from infringement, along with consequences in-between. It is your responsibility to serve camera fine notices under the AARTO Act, through the registered email and collect the document within 10 days of post. If infringements have transitioned to an enforcement order, license disks and driving licenses can be confiscated.

Paying traffic fines

By paying a traffic fine, you are accepting responsibility for the traffic offence. There are various ways in which one can pay:
Directly at the traffic department.

  • At a post office.
  • Via EFT or electronic banking.
  • Via a traffic fine collection website.

It is, however, your right to refuse payment without proof of the offense claimed to be committed. It is your responsibility to attend court summons, as long as you have received 14-day’s notice period.
Rights during Warrants of Arrest

A warrant of arrest is an authority to arrest on criminal charge. It is vital to know your rights during a warrant of arrest:

  • The right to see a copy of the arrest warrant immediately.
  • The right to be taken to the place of holding stated on the arrest warrant.
  • The right to be informed of your constitutional rights at the arrest.
  • The right to see the officer’s appointment certificate.
  • The right to see the officer’s identification.
  • The right to pay a guilt admission or appear before court, after being detained.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure that you are not refused anything on the document.
  • It is your responsibility to note down any offenses committed by the officer.

Unlawful arrests

There many instances in which police brutality occurs during arrest. The offender may also feel that they are obliged to adhere to these excessive forces. These unlawful arrests are illegal and anyone subjected to it has the right to a civil litigation. However, it is your responsibility to institute the unlawful arrest claim within 6-months of the action; unless condoned or granted by a court. Many law firms are prepared to act on contingency, therefore unlawful arrest victims are encouraged to take action. It is, however, the victim’s responsibility to ensure they are accurate about all details.

Representing or defending yourself in court

It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain a traffic expert or attorney specializing in traffic offences or criminal law, to represent and defend yourself in court. Doing it yourself may lead to negative results

Retaining road safety

The best way to avoid traffic offences is by abiding to all traffic laws. Read up on the road rules and practice safe driving. Drive within your speed limit, do not jump traffic lights, make sure your vehicle is roadworthy and remain vigilant of other drivers and non-drivers. Remaining a ‘law-abiding-citizen’ will help you avoid getting traffic fines mailed to your door or getting stopped at a road block. It is not your responsibility to road rage against unlawful drivers; instead, it is your responsibility to report them. It is your responsibility to maintain an offence-free driving record and your right to report unlawful traffic officers.

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The above information, is simply a guide and does not change any laws, rules and regulations, as stipulated in the South African National Road Traffic Act or National Road Traffic Regulations.


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