During the festive season there is always an increase in police activity, namely roadblocks. In this article we will discuss on what basis you could be arrested for unpaid traffic fines. To start off, it’s important to know the difference between the kind of fines you get. If you commit a traffic violation for which a police officer pulls you over and hands you a fine this is completely different to receiving a fine in the mail. Two situations that may play out is as follows:
In the first scenario, should you be presented with a spot fine / summons by being personally presented with the fine by a traffic official at the time of the offence, you can object to this fine before the court date by means of writing a letter or going to the traffic department and finding the individual in charge and presenting your case to him or her. On this type of fine there will appear a payment date as well as a court date. Often getting a reduction of the amount is easier than having the fine withdrawn. If you do not make progress with your appeal or you are unhappy with just a reduction you can fight it in court on the trial date which appears on the summons. At this stage it is advisable to make use of a lawyer, however, it also needs to make sense financially. If you are fighting a R500 fine in court, your legal fees will no doubt be higher than the actual fine, therefore it would be more beneficial for you to pay the fine and cut your losses, alternatively rely on the appeal system and accept the result. If you do not pay your fine and you do not appear for your court date, a warrant for your arrest will be acquired. At this point you can still pay the fine, together with the warrant costs, and the warrant will be nullified. In this situation if you come across a police roadblock and they have the original warrant for your arrest you can in fact be arrested.
The second scenario relates to when you receive a fine in the mail. In this scenario, you were going over the speed limit while thinking about the amazing dinner waiting for you at home. A few weeks later you receive the R500 fine in the mail but you completely forget about paying it before the payment date. This fine will not, in itself, result in a warrant for your arrest unless you are later personally served with a summons for the unpaid fine and you do not thereafter appear at Court on the trial date allocated on the summons, alternatively, appeal against the fine as explained in scenario 1. If you come across a roadblock with only having received the fine in the post you will not be arrested.
There has been a lot of misinformation spread over social media over the last few weeks about roadblock dates along with outrageous claims such as your car getting impounded when you have unpaid fines. There is no basis for this and no reason for the mass hysteria it causes. We still recommend that you do the correct thing and pay for your traffic fines as well as respecting any traffic officer you may interact with over the festive season. We wish you safe travels and arrive alive.