Some drunken driving cases dropped

2011-09-10 18:06
Cape Town - The drunken driving cases provisionally pulled off the Western Cape High Court roll pending the outcome of a case involving the validity of the Dräger breathalyser test will not proceed, the NPA said on Friday.

National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the decision was made after the Western Cape High Court found problems with the breathalyser test.

"There were cases on the roll which were provisionally withdrawn because of the Dräger case. The cases that were withdrawn will not continue," he said.

Judge Nathan Erasmus dismissed a drunken driving charge against 28-year-old Clifford Hendricks on Friday, after finding problems with the Dräger breathalyser test performed on him.

"I am of the view that, save for the fact that the accused was the driver of the motor vehicle on a public road on the day in question, the State failed to prove any of the other elements of the offence as charged," Erasmus said.

"Consequently the accused is acquitted of the charge."


Hendricks, who was charged with drunken driving in January 2010, challenged the validity of a Dräger breathalyser test of his breath alcohol level. It found him to be four times over the legal limit.

The NPA in the Western Cape brought the use of the Dräger to court to prove its reliability. The breathalyser's accuracy had been brought into question on several previous occasions.

In his judgment, Erasmus said the certificate of the operator who performed the test on Hendricks was dated February 12 1999. However, the test in question was programmed with software finalised only in December 1999.

"There is no certificate to prove that the operator was trained in terms of the software version 1.1 on the Alcotest that was used in producing this result," he said.

Erasmus also found that a person's body temperature, or whether he wore dentures, could lead to a false reading on the Dräger.

A spokesperson for Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said that although the ruling "seemed like a setback", Erasmus had provided clarity on how the Dräger testing process had to be applied in future.


"This has never been tested before this way in court and now we understand what the road ahead looks like," Steven Otter said.

"It provides us with the opportunity to get the system going perfectly."

He said the court had accepted the constitutionality of the device and even encouraged its use.

"The court said we are in complete support of the device, but here's what's wrong with the process."

In future, the test would be as quick as a driver being stopped in car, doing a blow test and then being taken to a Dräger centre for a further test.

"The result will be instant and the conviction will be far faster," Otter said.

Ntabazalila said a team from the provincial department of transport and the NPA would look at the recommendations made by Erasmus.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    npa  |  george  |  cape town  |  transport publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Boks take ‘no mercy’ approach
Burger to equal Bok RWC record
Japan victory attracts record TV figures
iPads the secret to Japanese RWC success
Traffic Alerts

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Listen to your body and your emotional reactions. Know when to slow down or stop. It is more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.