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Been arrested for drunk driving in South Africa? What you need to know.

By June 14, 2022 No Comments

Over 60% of road accidents in South Africa are caused by drunk driving. To reduce the number of accidents on the roads, police and traffic officers are constantly testing and then arresting drivers who have consumed alcohol or other illegal substances. The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Metro Police/officers take a rigorous approach to alcohol consumption on weekends, public holidays, and national holidays, often setting up roadblocks where many drivers are arrested within a few hours.

Ideally, we want every driver to be sober when pulled over. However, if you are under the influence of alcohol, you need to be prepared for what can happen. You need to know your rights, but you also need to know what to do if you are arrested, charged, or detained. 

If a SAPS or Metro officer stops you, the most crucial advice is to remain calm and cooperative. When you are intoxicated, it can be difficult to remember what you should do and your rights, but if you comply with police requests, you can help the process go more smoothly. 

If you are stopped at a roadblock, the procedure goes something like this:

1. The police will ask you questions

The officer will ask you if you have had anything to drink and ask you to show your driver’s licence. 

What should you do?
Always tell the truth because you may be asked to take a breathalyser test. It would only worsen the outcome if they found out that you lied.

What are your rights? 

  • You can ask the police officer to see the written authorisation for the roadblock. If asked, they must produce the permit immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the matter on the roadside if the officer cannot produce documentation. Instead, report the incident to the officer’s supervisor at the police station. You may then have the right to take civil action against the officer. 
  • Note that filming events at a roadblock is legal, so if you feel that your rights are being violated, take out your cell phone.

 

2. A breathalyser test will be required

If the officer asks you to take a breathalyser test, they will ask you to step out of the car to go to a testing unit where all drivers who are stopped and tested will wait their turn. Your passengers may remain in the vehicle.

What should you do?
It is advisable to calmly and politely follow the instructions you are given. There’s always the possibility that the officer will interpret an objection to a breathalyser test as you being “difficult”.

What are your rights? 

  • You may refuse a breathalyser test, but then you will likely be asked to take a blood test, which you cannot refuse.

 

3. The breathalyser test will be carried out

Another police officer will conduct a breath analysis. You will be asked to blow as hard as possible into the plastic mouthpiece, and the device will provide a reading. If your blood alcohol level is above 0.05 grams per 100ml of blood, you will be informed, arrested, and taken to a mobile blood testing unit or police station for a blood draw.

What should you do?
If you are arrested, do not resist arrest or become violent. Refrain from giving the police any information other than your full name.

What are your rights? 

  • The officer should read you your rights, including your right to remain silent and call someone if you so choose. They must do this in a language you understand.

 

4. The police will take you for a blood alcohol test

The breath alcohol test alone is not enough to convict you. Therefore, a blood test must also confirm your breath alcohol levels. 

What should you do?
Make sure your car is parked safely. It can be driven to the police station by another passenger, or you can leave it at the scene and pick it up later. If you want your doctor to be present, you can ask them to be phoned so they can be present during the blood draw. However, if this delays the blood draw for more than two hours, you risk being charged with obstruction of justice.

What are your rights? 

  • You can request that your passengers drive you while being escorted by police. You cannot refuse a blood draw unless the test is to be done by a non-qualified person. Only a medical doctor (district surgeon or prison medical officer) or a registered nurse is authorised to take blood samples, and you can ask to be shown that the needle and syringe used are new. 
  • The law states that “the police may use any force necessary to draw the blood,” which means a police officer could restrain you if you are unruly and uncooperative. Again, if you find yourself in this situation, it is best to remain calm and follow instructions. 
  • Note that they must test your blood within two hours of being stopped. If your blood is tested after two hours, it will not be admissible in court and may not provide evidence for your case. Without other evidence, this could result in your case being dismissed.

 

5. A case docket will be opened

At the police station, they will take your fingerprints and open a case file. The officer may also ask you some basic questions about the events that led to your arrest. You will remain in custody until you appear in court or post bail. Some police stations have holding cells, but if not, they may take you to another police station where they can hold you. 

What should you do?
If you have not already done so, call Adendorff Attorneys Inc. at 0860 122 529. Tell us if you suspect that your rights are being violated. When your case goes to trial, this information is important to the case. In all criminal cases, the police must take extensive notes so you can match your suspicions with the evidence noted in their books and charge sheets. All changes to charge sheets need to be signed by you and the officer.

What are your rights? 

  • Once you are arrested, you have the right not to give any statement without your attorney being there. If you cannot afford legal assistance, you can ask for legal aid, which will be provided by the state. 
  • You have the right to demand to be held in a clean cell. Food, bedding, and medical care are among the essentials you can expect during your detention.

 

6. Bail will be discussed

Once you have made your statements, there is generally an opportunity to post bail for your release. Bail is usually R500 to R2.500.00, and in certain circumstances, Adendorff Attorneys Inc. will assist you in posting your bail if you are not able to do so. 

What should you do?
Once you have posted bail, you will be released and can leave the station. You will be given a warning statement indicating when and where you must appear in court in order for the matter to be heard in front of a magistrate. 

If you are not given a warning statement, the police will issue a summons on a future date and have the same served upon you, which will contain the dates and details of when you are to appear. This is one of the reasons you must be honest when giving your details, as it will count against your chances if the police arrive at the address you provided only to find out it was fake. In this instance, a warrant for your arrest will be issued, and you will face charges over and above that of your DUI.

What are your rights? 

  • Everyone has the right to bail proceedings. However, if you cannot afford to post bail, you will be held until you appear in court. 

 

7. You will appear in court

You must appear in court within 48 (working) hours. If you are released on bail or are in pre-trial detention, you will be summoned or given a warning statement to appear before a magistrate court at a date and time assigned to you. 

What should you do?
Make sure that you look representable and get to court on time. Your attorney from Adendorff Attorneys Inc. will handle everything else for you. 

What are your rights? 

  • You have the right to legal representation. This can make the difference between a criminal record and a clean record.

 

What happens if you are found guilty of DUI? 

If you are found guilty of DUI in South Africa, your sentence can range from a few months of community service to a maximum of a six-year prison term. There is also the possibility of a fine of at least R2.000.00 and the danger of having your driver’s licence suspended. You could have a criminal record for ten years if convicted in the worst-case scenario. 

How can Adendorff Attorneys Inc. help you if you are arrested for DUI?

Our experienced DUI criminal lawyers will ensure all steps are taken to give you the best possible chances of success. They will ensure that your rights are protected and provide the necessary representations that could justify a diversion or withdrawal of your case. This can help you avoid jail time or suspension of your driver’s licence and keep your criminal record clean.

At Adendorff Attorneys Inc, we believe that first-time offenders deserve quality legal representation and the chance to make things right. Contact Le Roux Snyman at Adendorff Attorneys Inc. on 0860 122 529 for more information about our rates and services.