Ignoring that speeding fine? Your one stop ticket to trouble

It’s another busy morning and you are in a mad rush to get the kids to school on time, you are going way over the speed limit when a traffic officer stops you, and despite your very best protestations awards you a “ticket”. You then decide to ignore the ticket in the hope that it will just disappear in a pile of endless paper work at your local traffic department. That is, until the Friday when you leave for that long-planned getaway to the Mozambique coast, where you are arrested at the border post, kept in custody until Monday and face charges of contempt of court. It then becomes apparent that the “ticket” you received was in actual fact a notice to appear in court.

If you are caught driving at a speed that exceeds the speed limit by 30km/h or more in an urban area, the option of a fine is no longer applicable and you will be issued with a notice to appear in court. But what does this mean?

Many people are unfamiliar with the court process. Upon your first appearance, the option of conducting your own defence, appointing an attorney of choice or applying to legal aid is given to you. Unless you have legal experience, it is not advisable to conduct your own defence, rather seek legal advice. Many people just want the ordeal to go away, and will plead guilty to expedite the matter, totally unaware of the fact that they have just secured themselves a criminal record and the possibility of having their driver’s licence suspended.

Others have ignored the notices to appear in court, hoping the matter will not be pursued, unaware of the fact that a warrant of arrest has been issued by the relevant court against them. While in an ideal system warrants of arrest are executed by the police who have your home or work address which make it a lot easier to execute your arrest, more often than not these warrants go unexecuted for long periods of time and end up being executed quite unforeseen at roadblocks and at border posts, usually at the most inconvenient of times.

It is during this time that you will probably meet a policeman who is executing a warrant of arrest against you, realise that this policeman does not care for explanations regarding what crime the warrant has been issued for, and merely cares about the fact that you are a criminal that needs to be arrested and detained in custody and taken to court to face the consequences of your failure to obey the law.

Often traffic fines are not issued on the spot and arrive some time later by post demanding payment for the joy ride you thought you had gotten away with. What is the status of these fines?

It will all depend on whether or not the joy ride took place in the operational areas of the Johannesburg or Tshwana Metro Police departments or whether it took place anywhere else in the Republic of South Africa.

The Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences also known as AARTO is currently in the process of been phased in by the Department of Transport. It has already been partially implemented in the operational areas of the Johannesburg and Tshwana Metro Police departments, but the system is not applicable across the country yet.

Traffic fines under AARTO:

  • You will be sent what is known as an AARTO 03 infringement notice (camera fines) which must be delivered to you by registered mail only;
  • During the first 32 days from the date of service, you will receive a 50% discount, if you pay the fine immediately, but if you don’t then you will lose the discount and have to pay a further R60 for a letter which will give you another 30 days to pay your fine;
  • If you do then that will be the end of it, failing which an Enforcement Order will be issued against you;
  • This so called Enforcement Order will cost you an additional R60, and will block all licensing transactions on eNatis;
  • This means that you will not be able to register a new vehicle, renew your licence disc for any vehicle you own, and you will not be able to renew your driving license or apply for a new class of licence until such time as the Enforcement Order has been cancelled, which can only happen if you have paid your outstanding fine or you have made successful application to have it revoked;
  • AARTO also makes provision for a warrant of execution to be issued which allows the Sheriff to come and take your belongings in order to sell them, the money for which will then be used to pay your outstanding fines.
  • A positive point about the AARTO process is that there is no provision for a warrant of arrest.
  • You can always make representations or elect to be tried in court.

In the event of your joy ride taking place anywhere else in South Africa you will receive an old school traffic fine under the Criminal Procedure Act:

  • You will receive what is known as a “first notice of offence” under section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act and which may be sent to you by ordinary mail;
  • At this point you can admit guilt and pay the fine immediately;
  • You will always have the option to make representations in the form of a letter to the relevant traffic authorities prior to the fine payment expiry date;
  • Or you could just wait for a section 54 summons to be issued and served on you.
  • On receiving a section 56 issue (issued by a traffic officer at the time of the offence) or a section 54 summons (issued with respect to a camera and offences where you are not served at the time), you have the following options available to you:
  • You can admit guilt and pay the fine immediately;
  • You can make representations to the senior public prosecutor, who has the authority to withdraw the matter against you;
  • You can appear in a court of law and take your chances in defending the matter; or
  • You can ignore the summons, fail to appear in court and get arrested on a warrant of arrest.

As you can see ignoring your speeding fine could have severe consequences and could result in you spending a weekend in jail or not being able to register that brand new sports car you have your eye one. Accordingly, it is advisable that you consult your attorney for assistance when receiving a speeding fine or if you are currently in a position where you have ignored your speeding fine for some time already.

November 22, 2013

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