31 October 2012: While itís important to be reasonably polite when dealing with the police, itís also crucial to know your rights as a woman. Especially considering that within the past year around 600 policemen have been arrested for various crimes.
Here are some common scenarios that happen on our roads and solutions, provided by the Automobile Associationís (AA):
1. Youíve had two glasses of wine at book club and get pulled over on the way home. The breathalyser shows youíre just on the limit.
The reality: Donít drink and drive. Ever. There are people who will fetch you and drive you home. Itís simply not worth it.
What is the limit? Two glasses of wine is above the limit in most instances, and you can be arrested immediately and your car impounded. The rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit per hour, which constitutes 10ml of pure alcohol, based on a person weighing 68kg. It takes one hour to get rid of one unit, and our bodies can process only one unit of alcohol each hour.
In laymanís terms, one unit is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content. For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable. Whisky and brandy connoisseurs can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour. It is important to be aware that if you weigh less than 68kg your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol.
Your rights: You are entitled to call a lawyer, but donít try that straight away as this will aggravate the situation, especially if you are on your own.
Where to tattle-tale: Justice Project SA (JPSA) instituted its ďPriority AssistĒ service at the end of last year to deal with situations like this on your behalf. Once you subscribe, you are provided with the telephone number for the JPSA call centre and will be able to call at any time for advice and assistance. Their staff will either deal with the situation there and then while you are on the call, or will send a response unit to the site to deal with the situation. They can also organise a family friend or relative to pay bail, if necessary. To subscribe, go to their website at www.jp-sa.org/pa.asp.
2. Youíre pulled over by a SAPS vehicle. They want to search your car.
The reality: The Criminal Procedure Act states that a search without a warrant is allowed only if the officer suspects that your vehicle has been used in the act of a crime.
Your rights: The officer must say what they are looking for, and your handbag may only be searched by a woman officer.
Where to tattle-tale: Again, the JPSAís Priority Assist can help. Afterwards, if the situation was handled inappropriately, lay a charge of indecent assault with the SAPS, and also phone the JMPD anti-corruption line on 011 490 1700, which operates 24/7, and lay a complaint there too.
3. The officer who pulled you over is seeking a bribe. What do you do?
The reality: íIím thirstyí or íso what should we do about thisí are common prompts for a bribe. Another is the officer threatening you with an excessive fine amount and/or demerit points that apply to the infringement you have just committed.
Your rights: The recommended response is, ĎWell, then, you are just going to have to give me a ticketí. If the officer refuses, then ask if you can go with a warning. Whatever you do, donít pay a bribe. No matter how small it is, it just leads to more corruption.
Where to tattle-tale: Bribe attempts should be reported to your nearest police station, through www.corruptionwatch.org.za, or crime line with an SMS to 32211. Try to gather information on the officer concerned by noting the police vehicleís number plates, vehicle service number and of course first prize, the officerís name.
4. At a roadblock the officer prints out a list of unpaid fines, then tells you to get out of your car and get into an official van.
The reality: Under no circumstances may you be forced to pay outstanding fines at the roadside.
Your rights: A warrant for arrest can only be handed out if you have received and ignored a summons to appear in court. So if there is no warrant of arrest, stay in your car. If you are told to get out of your car and go and sit in one of their vans until you pay your fines, this constitutes unlawful arrest Ė even if they donít tell you that you are under arrest.
But remember, the best way to avoid being stopped for outstanding fines is not to have them in the first place.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126