What are the Traffic Fines in South Africa?
As with all things in life, driving has rules. Sadly, as more and more people get their licenses and take to the roads, the list of regulations gets longer and longer. As such, it can be difficult to keep track of all the different rules of the road and occasionally you may find yourself wondering what it is you’re really allowed to do. Well then, what are the traffic fines in South Africa and how much could they cost you?
Traffic fines are normally minor charges imposed upon a driver who is found guilty of breaking the rules or traffic laws. These include Speeding, Vehicle worthiness, Operator fitness, Driving signals, Rules of the road, and many more. There are seemingly endless lists of traffic violations that could land you a fine but let us discuss these in more detail…
- Speeding – Going over the speed limit is an obvious one but you can also receive a fine for related infringements, for example, traveling too fast in adverse weather conditions.
- Vehicle worthiness – There are certain standards that your vehicle must meet if you wish to travel on the road. If a traffic officer believes you do not meet these requirements (for example, if you have a broken headlight) you may be fined.
- Operator fitness – While things like driving under the influence of alcohol will land you in jail, other, less severe infringements such as erratic or reckless driving can result in a fine or warning.
- Driving Signals – While many people get used to driving without always using hand or car signals, it is still considered an infringement and is a frequent cause of traffic fines.
- Rules of the Road – Any attempt to ignore road signs and road procedures is a finable offense. This violation varies from running a red light to illegal parking.
What about the others? Well, summing up all the minor traffic infringements that result in fines would take another 50 pages and serious counseling. If you’re very curious, your best bet is to read through the National Road Traffic Offence Charge Book.
Do Traffic Fines Result in a Criminal Record?
Paying a fine is never an enjoyable task but it’s not the end of the world. Having a potentially permanent criminal record on the other hand is a little more disconcerting.
Luckily, not all fines result in a criminal record. Traffic offenses are usually split into two main categories by the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) –
- Minor offenses
- Serious offenses
Minor offences include things like slight speeding, illegal parking and expired licenses and normally do not give you a criminal record.
Serious offences on the other hand are things like excessive speeding, drunk driving and fleeing from the scene of an accident and will usually lead to arrests and a criminal record.
Ultimately, the penalty is decided by the traffic officer or judge in question. They will consider the infringement along with the context of the crime, for example, if you are a first-time offender who seems extremely repentant, an offense that would normally lead to jail time may be reduced so that it does not actually end with a criminal record.
In most cases, if you are not arrested and fingerprinted, it is unlikely that you will have a criminal record. You should however, be very weary of admission of guilt fines.
What is an Admission of Guilt Fine and Should you Pay It?
South Africa, like most countries, has a legal system that works on the basis of a presumption of innocence, otherwise known as “guilty until proven innocent”. What this means is that when you are accused of committing a crime, it is up to the accuser to prove that you are guilty.
In the case of traffic violations, the state has the job of proving that you are guilty, rather than you having to prove that you are innocent.
This is where fines can be a bit tricky. On one hand, you may feel a sense of relief that an officer or judge is offering you a fine rather than a prison sentence. On the other hand, agreeing to pay fines is viewed by law as an admission of guilt. If you are accused of speeding, for example, and you agree to pay a speeding fine, you are, in essence, agreeing that you were in fact speeding and that the state was correct in punishing you.
So what does this have to do with criminal records? Well, in a situation where your alleged offence is going to result in a criminal record, the state will first have to prove it in a court of law. This gives you the opportunity to challenge this ruling and potentially avoid the sentence.
If however, you pay the fine, you are admitting guilt and the criminal record will be verified by the court. So be careful when paying fines. In many cases they will not lead to a criminal record, but once you pay them you will not be able to argue that you were, in fact, innocent of the crime.
How Much are Traffic Fines in South Africa?
As previously mentioned, the fines themselves are decided at the discretion of the traffic officer in charge, thus it’s impossible to say exactly what kind of penalty you’d be looking at after committing a violation. There are, however, a set of guidelines that can provide a rough estimate to go off of.
Additionally, as the country begins to implement a new demerit system there is also a number of potential demerit points to consider. The basic idea being that you will gain points for every infraction and after collecting enough (the amount varies), your license will be revoked.
|Traffic Violation||Fine amount||Demerit points|
|Speeding||R250 – R1 500/arrest dependent on the speed||0-6|
|Vehicle Unworthiness||R250 – R1000||0-3|
|Operator Unfitness||R500 – R1250/arrest||1-6|
|Not using Driving Signals||R500 – R750||1-2|
|Illegal Parking||R250 – R1000||0-3|
|Not obeying Rules of the Road||R100 – R750||0-2|
|Fleeing scene of an accident||Arrest||6|
When can you be Stopped by the Police and What can you do?
Chapter 2, section 14 of the constitution enshrines the rights to privacy and protects against illegal search and seizure of property. There are, however, 2 main exceptions to this rule, at least where automobiles are concerned.
Firstly, roadblocks can be established although they must be officially authorized. Secondly, police officers may stop and search any vehicle if they have reasonable suspicions for doing so.
Unfortunately, these rules mean that, in practice, you can be stopped by officers at almost any time, for that reason, it’s good to know what you can and cannot do in such scenarios as well as the limitations and requirements of officers.
|You May||You May Not|
|Demand to see relevant authorization||Resist Arrest and/or assault/abuse officers|
|Refuse random search and seizure if no reasonable grounds are given||Offer to bribe officers|
| || |
|Police May||Police May Not|
|Seize illicit materials without a warrant||Ask for a bribe|
|Arrest individuals who commit offences in their presence||Assault you or damage your property|
|Deem a vehicle or driver to be unfit for travel||Search or seize your property without reasonable grounds|
It is also important to remember that certain traffic infringements can warrant an arrest on the spot, these include, but are not limited to –
- Excessive speeding
- Fleeing the scene of an accident
- Drunk driving
- Using fake licenses/documentation
In Conclusion – What are the Traffic Fines in South Africa and what can you do when Stopped by the Police?
There are many traffic violations that can lead to fines and even imprisonment. Commonly, things like speeding, reckless driving and not properly obeying the rules of the road result in many citizens receiving penalties each year. Ultimately, the punishment you will receive is largely up to the discretion of the traffic officer in charge, though normally, lesser or ‘minor’ infringements such as illegal parking and slightly excessive speeding will result in small fines and demerit points.
Other, more serious violations like drunk driving and extreme speeding can often end up in arrests and long-lasting criminal records. The country’s constitution protects citizens from searches and seizures that do not have reasonable grounds. As such, police officers may stop you only at roadblocks or if they have acceptable suspicions regarding you or your vehicle.
Police officers may not assault you or ask for bribes during a road stop, neither may they damage your property. They can, however, arrest lawbreakers and seize illegal materials. At certain times, judges may offer fines rather than prison sentences, this may be worthwhile but you should remember that paying a fine is considered an admission of guilt and thus a criminal record may be created once a fine is paid.
If you wish to challenge a ruling in court it would be in your best interest to avoid paying such a fine until your appeals have been made and decided upon.
Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although in many instances, our posts cite the constitution, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.
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