Its Roadblock Season – Know your Rights

Sandisha Sohan | Attorney: Legal Services Division

With the festive period fast approaching, there will be more roadblocks than usual on major routes. It is therefore important that you know your rights and how to respond if you are asked to pull over by a Police Officer or stopped at a traffic roadblock.

Know Your Rights!!!!

Can a Police Officer stop me even if I did not contravene the law?

  • A UNIFORMED Police Officer is allowed to stop any vehicle on the road.
  • Once you have been stopped you must produce your driver’s licence, full name and any other information required.

Does a Police Officer have the right to demand my driver’s licence?

  • In terms of the National Traffic Act, a Police Officer may demand your driver’s licence and you are obliged to hand it to him/her.
  • By law, your driver’s licence must be kept on your person or inside the vehicle.

What to do if you are unsure whether the person stopping you is actually a Police Officer?

  • Once stopped you may ask the Police Officer to produce their proof of identity which is usually in the form of an appointment certificate.
  • If the Police Officer refuses to do so, he/she is in contravention of the Criminal Procedure Act and any action that they take will be unlawful.
  • If you are still in doubt, you can inform the Police Officer that you feel unsafe and would prefer to drive to the nearest police station. The Police Officer can then follow you there.

Can a Police Officer remove my licence disk?

  • If the Police Officer has assessed your vehicle he/she may declare it unroadworthy and discontinue its use on the road immediately.
  • In this instance your licence disk (certification) could be removed from the windscreen.

What are my rights if I have outstanding traffic fines?

  • A Police Officer can never detain you or demand payment of an outstanding traffic fine at a roadblock or general spot check and cannot arrest you unless there is a current warrant of arrest issued against you.
  • The Police Officer can serve you with a Summons to appear in court for the unpaid fines provided the court date given is at least 14 days in the future (Sundays and public holidays excluded).
  • If you fail to appear, you will be in contempt of court and a warrant of arrest will be issued.

Search and Seizure?

  • Police Officials may only search your vehicle and/or seize items if they have a reasonable suspicion that you may have been involved in a crime and that a search warrant would be issued by a court of law.
  • This applies to ‘random pull-overs’ where you are singled out by Police Officers.
  • It does not apply to properly constituted roadblocks where search and seizure is in fact authorised.
  • If a Police Officer approaches you and wishes to search your vehicle or person, you may request the Officer to produce the Commissoners’ authorization letter.
  • The Commissioners’ authorization letter must include the following:
    • The date of the roadblock
    • The duration of the roadblock
    • The reason for the roadblock
  • If the Officer is unable to produce the authorization letter, you are legally allowed to refuse the Officer access to your vehicle/person.

What if a Police Officer wants to arrest me?

  • If you are stopped at a roadblock a Police Officer may arrest you, with or without a warrant of arrest, in the following circumstances:
    • You are found to be driving under the influence
    • You were driving recklessly or dangerously
    • You are wilfully obstructing a roadway
    • You are found to be driving without a Licence, or are driving with a cancelled or disqualified licence.
    • Police suspect that you committed a crime or are about to commit a crime.
    • You verbally or physically abuse a Police Officer.
  • If a Police Officer wants to arrest you, you have the responsibility to NOT resist the arrest in any form.
  • You must be informed of your rights immediately upon arrest.
  • You must thereafter be taken to the nearest police station.
  • You have the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of your detention.
  • You have the right to apply for and be granted bail at the Police station (for non-serious crimes).
  • For serious crimes your application for bail can only be heard by a court.

Physical Searches?

  • A male officer is not allowed to conduct a physical search on a female and vice-versa.

Always Remember:

  • If you are stopped late at night and feel unsafe or if you feel unsafe at any roadblock, random pull over or search, you may :
    • Call 10111, and inform the Operator that you are being followed by a car with blue lights and that you feel unsafe stopping at a Roadblock;
    • Slow down, put on your hazards and indicate to the Police Officer to follow you, do not exceed 40km/h, and drive to the nearest Police Station where there are people and cameras;
  • Always stay calm, remain in control of the situation at all times as there are laws that protect your rights but only in so much that you adhere to the rules governing those laws.