Cape Town - As inconvenient as they may seem, roadblocks exist to ensure the safety and well-being of all road users, especially during peak traffic hours, holiday periods and over weekends.
Knowing your rights as a road user as well as the best approach to dealing with the situation is critical in SA.
According to Advocate Jackie Nagtegaal from Law for All, many of their policyholders call in for legal advice on their rights when it comes to 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."
Motorist: "I’ve been pulled over in a roadblock, and it’s quite intimidating. What should I know?"
Nagtegaal: "Be sure to obey any instructions or signals from officers as you approach a roadblock. Once you have stopped, gather your driver’s licence and ID, as you will likely be asked for them by an official.
"It definitely helps to be polite to the officer on duty as being cooperative will expedite the process, and it is well within your legal right to ask for the roadblock’s certificate of authentication that is signed by either the National or Provincial Police Commissioner."
"The officers will then inspect your vehicle to determine whether or not is it roadworthy; if it isn’t, you could be legally prevented from continuing on your journey since you’re a danger to yourself and other motorists. Always keep in mind that driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious violation. If you are suspected of driving under the influence and refuse to take a breathalyser test, the police can still legally detain you and will have your blood tested.
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"Lastly, if you intentionally and unlawfully violate the dignity of an officer, you could be taken into custody. For example, any racial slurs, hate speech or actions that prevent the officer from doing their job could land you in hot water. Conversely, if you believe that an official is abusing their authority or violating you with inappropriate language or conduct, you can report the officer to the SAPS (try and get a badge number to help your case). You also have the right to film any incident at a roadblock- this is a good way to document any potentially unlawful behaviour from the police."
WATCH: How NOT to behave during a roadblock:
Arrive Alive shares important tips on dealing with roadblocks in South Africa:
1. Know what police can and cannot arrest you for
You can only be arrested in certain instances. For example, if you resist a breathalyser test, the police have the right to detain you and have your blood tested or if your blood alcohol level is found to be over the legal limit of 0.05g per 100ml.
Police can also arrest you at a roadblock for unpaid fines but only if a warrant has been issued against you for those specific fines and the officers can present you with a valid copy of the document.
2. If your car is unroadworthy you can be stopped from driving it further
If your vehicle is deemed unroadworthy, you may be stopped from driving it any further. Officers can legally prevent you from continuing to use your car if it is not roadworthy, simply because the vehicle is a risk to you and other road users. In some cases, motorists will be allowed to drive the car to their destination if it is a short distance.
Image by Arrive Alive
3. Gather as much evidence as you can
If you believe traffic officers are violating your rights or abusing their authority, gather as much evidence as you can. You have the right to know and write down both the officer's badge number and the vehicle number (found on the side of their patrol car/bakkie). Phone 10111 to report the incident and make sure you identify the officer(s). Throughout the process remain calm and act lawfully to protect yourself.
4. Uniformed officers have the right to stop any vehicle
An officer in uniform has the right to stop any motorist. Reasons may vary from routine checks, a traffic offence or to investigate possible stolen vehicles or suspicious drivers.
You have the right to verify the authenticity of the officer by requesting that they identify themselves (i.e badge number).
Image by Arrive Alive
5. You have the right to film the police in SA
Filming events at a roadblock is not illegal and this is a great way of gathering information in the case of officers acting unlawfully.
SAPS standing Order 156:
6. You can be arrested for verbally abusing an officer
Arrive Alive: "You cannot be arrested for being rude. If however your rudeness escalates to verbally abusing an officer, you will be committing a crime in the form of criminen injuria - the intentional and unlawful infringement of the dignity of the officer. You could be arrested. An example would be the use of obscene and/or racially offensive language or gestures. If you obstruct the officer from performing his or her duties it will considered criminal."
Image by Arrive Alive