Know your Rights when you are Arrested for Outstanding Fines

There has been a recent spate of spam email with regards to Police arrests on citizens for outstanding fines urging motorists to know their rights. Misleading information has been doing the rounds stating that traffic officials can only arrest you if they have the original warrant for your arrest, they must prove that you received the summons in person and they must provide a warrant for your arrest and proof that you received the summons at the time of the arrest.

“This information is false, and consumers need to be aware of their rights, as well as the rights of an officer of the law when arresting a motorist,” says the Automobile Association (AA).

“Before an arrest is affected, motorists have the right to demand to see a copy of the warrant for their arrest, but the officer is not required to produce the original warrant of arrest” adds the AA. He goes on to say that there is no requirement from an officer of the law to supply the person being arrested with a summons, or proof that the person received the summons. A summons is a document issued by the court specifying a date and time for an accused person to attend court. If the accused does not attend the court session, a warrant of arrest is then issued.

Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act also clearly states that should it not be possible to serve a summons on the accused, it can be served on the accused’s residence or employment to a person over the age of 16. The law does not provide for service of summons by post, and it must be served by a person empowered to serve such summons in criminal proceedings.

Should a motorist be accused and an officer of the law threatens to make an arrest, it is within your rights to demand to see a copy of the warrant of your arrest. An arrest without a warrant is therefore unlawful and a person has a civil right to claim compensation for such an act. One cannot, however, “press charges” in this instance as this terminology refers to a criminal process and your civil right to claim compensation is your recourse in such an instance.

“As a civilian, in order to ensure the law works for you, you need to ensure that you know your rights and the recourse you have to unlawful acts that you would potentially be unaware of,” the AA concludes.

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126

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