While most of us know the rules of the road, you might not be as knowledgeable regarding law enforcement and traffic fines. Do you know your rights?
According to Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, from Law for All, many of her policyholders call in for legal advice regarding traffic infringements.
Nagtegaal said: “All road users should drive safely and obey the law, but while you do have to pay your debt to society if you break the law, it is important to know what your options are if issued a fine unfairly or you feel your rights have been violated.”
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Types of Traffic Fines
Example from client: “Some fines say you must appear in court, others don’t! What’s the difference?”
There are two types of traffic fines in South Africa. The first is a Section 341 fine which you will receive in the mail, attached to your vehicle if you have violated a traffic law or have been caught on camera for speeding in a particular area, says Law for All.
If you do not pay the fine, a summons stipulating a court date will be issued. This can be served to you in person at your home or work.
There is also a Section 56 fine, which you will personally receive from an officer who has pulled you over for breaking the law. Unlike the Section 341, there is no second notice (this type of ticket already includes a trial date and serves as a summons) issued for this kind of fine.
If you don’t pay the fine by the due date, you will have to appear in court and state your case, says Nagtegaal.
She said: “It is important not to ignore a summons or date to appear in court, as the Magistrate will issue a warrant for your arrest if you are a no-show.”
Unfair Traffic Fines
“I’ve received a traffic fine for speeding, but I never speed! Can I challenge this?”
Nagtegaal said: “Disputing a traffic violation is well within your rights. You should never feel powerless if you know you didn’t break the law. Our Constitution says that if you are accused of something, you are regarded as innocent until proven otherwise.”
If you strongly feel you didn’t break any law and you don’t deserve the fine, you can challenge it by writing a letter explaining the situation and why you think you don’t deserve to be penalised. Send it along with a copy of the fine to the municipal traffic department (the address should be on the ticket). The department should reply via mail and if you are successful, will either cancel or reduce the fine.
If you are unsuccessful in your quest to quash your fine and you receive a court summons, you can still contest the ticket by, sending a letter to the department with a copy of the fine. It will then be forwarded to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to take your case to court.
Headed to court
If you do end up in court (make sure you have a lawyer), you will have the opportunity to explain your side of the story in person.
Also, be sure to gather any evidence – from images of unclear road signs or even statements from witnesses- and then include this in your letter to the department.
Keep in mind that if you pay an admission of guilt fine or the court finds you guilty, you may end up getting a criminal record.
Nagtegaal said: “If you live in Pretoria/Tshwane or Johannesburg, the procedure is slightly different as AARTO applies. The first step would be to download an AARTO 08 representation form and fill in all the necessary details (including the violation notice number and the issuing authority).
“If you have gathered any additional evidence, you can send it as attachments. After it has been signed in front of a commissioner of oaths, you can upload and submit the completed form via the AARTO website. Should you be successful, the fine will be cancelled or reduced. Unfortunately, if you are unsuccessful, a further R200 may be added to the fine if you made your representation more than 64 days after the traffic violation. You can also choose to state your case in court and if you are found guilty will have to pay the fine. You will however not get a criminal record.”