Silly season is upon us and it is important to know what your rights are, and what rights law enforcement officials have in a roadblock.
South Africa – Silly season has earned its name over the years. To combat this, the South African traffic and police services increase their presence on the roads across the country.
After seeing a shocking video and following the news of a woman who drove to a local garage to safely get pulled over; only to be assaulted, we wondered what our rights are when it comes to roadblocks? It is almost a guarantee that one will encounter the police at some point on the roads, so it is essential to know what your rights are and what is expected of you in return!
Before proceeding to the list below, it is important to note the difference between a roadblock and a roadside check. According to Arrive Alive, there are two kinds of stop systems deployed by the SAPS and traffic officials. It is important to note the differences.
The definition of a roadblock
“A “roadblock” is recognisable by the blockage of the road by law enforcement officials. These may be police or traffic officers, or a combination thereof. The road is physically blocked in one or both directions. Roadblocks actively impede the flow of traffic.”
For a roadblock to be legal, there needs to be written authorisation from either the National or Provincial Commissioner, or alternatively the Station Commander.
This is where the distinction between a roadblock and a roadside check comes in…
The definition of a roadside check
“So-called “roadside checks” differ considerably from roadblocks in that at such operations the road is not blocked. Instead, traffic officers park at the side of the road and pull random vehicles off to check vehicle and driver fitness. They do not actively impede the flow of traffic.”
You can read a full breakdown of how each one is defined by law, you can read that here.
Along with the full breakdown of how roadblocks and roadside checks are defined by law, Arrive Alive also broke down what you can and can’t do and what law officials can and can’t do.
What may and may not be done at roadblocks and “roadside checks”
- Law enforcement officials may:
- search your person and/or property without a warrant at a properly authorised roadblock;
- search your person and/or property at a “roadside check” without a warrant if you consent to a search or they have reasonable grounds to do so;
- seize any “contraband” or evidence without a warrant at a roadblock or a “roadside check”
- issue an infringement notice (“fine” in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act or the AARTO Act, as applicable) in respect of vehicle or driver fitness, together with passengers’ compliance with provisions of law;
- issue a notice to discontinue use of a motor vehicle if it is suspected of being unroadworthy, or impound it if it is clearly unroadworthy;
- arrest any person who has been, or they reasonably suspect has been involved in, or is about to commit an offence contemplated in Schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedure Act, without obtaining a warrant of arrest;
- arrest any person in respect of whom a warrant of arrest has been issued by a Court;
- arrest any person who commits any offence in his or her presence;
- drive or ride any class of vehicle if they consider it necessary to do so, even if he or she only possesses a code B driving licence; and
- inform you of your outstanding traffic fines.
- Law enforcement officials may not:
- physically or verbally abuse you or damage your property;
- search your person or property without a warrant except at a roadblock or where reasonable grounds to do so exist, or you consent to a search;
- merely threaten to arrest you;
- solicit a bribe;
- force you to pay traffic fines at the roadside, even if a facility such as a bus is there for you to do so;
- withhold the prompt return of your driving licence in order to coerce you into paying outstanding traffic fines where no warrant of arrest exists or your driving licence card is not fraudulent; or
- discontinue or impound your vehicle without reasonable grounds.
- You may:
- demand to have sight of his or her certificate of appointment (a card authorising him or her to act as a peace officer);
- demand that any law enforcement official shows you written authorisation as is contemplated in Section 13(8) of the SAPS Act at a roadblock;
- demand to see proof of a warrant of arrest if one is claimed to exist;
- refuse to submit to arbitrary searches of your person or property at a “roadside check”, unless reasonable grounds therefor exist.
- You may not:
- physically or verbally abuse them or damage their property;
- refuse to provide a breath alcohol or blood sample;
- resist arrest; or
- offer or pay a bribe.
It is important to know this is just a summary of the law, you need to make sure you and your actions always fall within the law. As advised by Arrive Alive, it is important to challenge any laws or infringements of your rights through the correct channels. Rather seek the advice of a lawyer.
Should you find yourself feeling frustrated by law enforcement officers, take a deep breath, act reasonably and at your soonest chance, contact a legal representative.
A picture has been doing the rounds on social media and WhatsApp, listing the rights you have. It is less detailed than the Arrive Alive list but also gives the information needed for roadblocks and roadside checks.