Learn how to manage the law around traffic fines, such as how to check if you have outstanding fines, avoiding illegal fines, appealing legal fines and reducing their amounts.
Traffic fines have significantly increased in South-Africa as government is currently trying to reinforce its traffic law in rider to mitigate high traffic fatalities. In order to avoid unintentionally breaking traffic laws and accumulating fines, it is important to understand traffic offences and fines.
Traffic offences are governed by the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) nationally and Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) in Gauteng. These different systems of governance result in slightly different procedures.
Nationally, an individual can expect to receive two types of fines:
- A fine given by a traffic officer to the offender in person with a court date attached to it (S56 notice). This fine is given if a person has breached a traffic law; and
- A fine given for speeding from a camera or other related traffic officer. If the offender does not pay the fine, they will receive a summons with a date on which they have to appear in court. (S34 notice)
After having received a fine, an offender has 30 days to approach their traffic department to contest the fine, if they wish to do so. After the 30 days, a summons will be issued for the person to appear in court.
Fines in Gauteng Only
Under the AARTO, an offender will receive an infringement notice stating that they have breached a traffic law. However, if the infringement has progressed to an enforcement order, then the license disc or driving license of the offender may be withheld. This must be served by registered mail and the offender has 10 days to collect and sign the document. Failure to do so might lead to a fine
Note: No warrants for arrest or issuing of summons is unlawful with respect to an infringement notice (fine).
When can an offender be arrested for a traffic offence?
Under the following circumstances, an offender may be arrested for breaching a traffic law:
- If the police have a valid arrest warrant;
- If the police have a reasonable belief that the offender is under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- If the police have a reasonable belief that the offender is driving dangerously, carelessly or recklessly;
- If the offender is wilfully obstructing a roadway;
- If the offender is driving without a valid license; and
- If the police have a reasonable belief that the offender has or is about to commit a crime.
Note: A person may be arrested for exceeding the speed limit by 30 km/h in an urban area and 40 km/h in a rural area without further cause.
In order to avoid being unfairly fined or arrested, members of the public may take the following precautions:
If an offender has been pulled-over for having violated the speed limit, they are entitled to view the Speed Measuring Equipment (SME) to check whether they have actually exceeded the speed limit. They are also entitled to see the appointment, calibration validity and operator’s certificates related to the SME. If the certificate is dated beyond 12 months of the date of issue of the fine (therefore, it being now expired), an offender is not required to pay the fine.
Note: Where there are no sign-posts indicating the speed limit, the national speed limits are 60 km/h on an urban road, 100 km/h on a rural road and 120 km/h on a freeway.
If an offender has received a fine by post, they are entitled to verify the following:
- That the camera site has the written approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions;
- That the camera was checked within 7 days before the date that the offender was caught speeding; and
- That the details on the speeding fine are correct.
Note: Speeding fines do not expire after 3 years. However, a person cannot be prosecuted for a traffic offence after 20 years.
Contesting Fines in Gauteng & Tshwane
An offender can review all of their outstanding fines and the status of these fines on the AARTO website. Under the AARTO, Gauteng residents must be served with an Infringement Notice either in person or via registered email within 40 days of the alleged offence, otherwise the fine is not valid.
If an offender intends to contest an AARTO notice, they may do so within 64 days from the date of service of the notice by following the following procedure:
- The offender needs to fill in a representation form (AARTO 08);
- The offender needs to fill in the details from their infringement notice form;
- The offender may attach any additional evidence to their representation form;
- The offender needs to sign the form in front of a Commissioner of oaths
The form must then be submitted by uploading it to the AARTO website where they will receive an instant receipt. The offender should then receive the outcome of their representation on an AARTO09 form. If the representation is successful, the infringement notice will be cancelled otherwise the offender may receive an additional R 200 to the penalty in the event that it has exceeded 64 days.
An unsuccessful representation will then be followed by a summons with a date on which the offender has to appear in court. If the court finds them guilty, they will have to pay the fine.
Note: An AARTO offence relating to an infringement notice does create a criminal record for the offender.
Contesting Fines in the Rest of SA
Certain provinces offer services such as View Fines or Pay City for the residents to view their fines. A notice of offence must be generated within 30 days and dispatched to the mail, otherwise it will be considered invalid. If an offender has ignored the notice of offence, a summons must be served to them in person to appear in court. An offender needs to contest the fine before the date of court appearance if they wish to contest it otherwise an arrest warrant will be issued against them.
An offender may contest the fine depending on whether it is a traffic fine or a summons to appear in court:
An offender may send a letter to the traffic department with their compounding notice number. A copy of the entire compounding notice letter may be attached to the letter. If the representation is successful, the fine will be either reduced or cancelled. If it is unsuccessful, the offender will have to await a summons to be issued and served on them.
Note: Paying the admission of guilt fine on the compounding notice will not result in a criminal record.
When an offender receives a summons to appear in court they may send a letter to or approach the Public Prosecutor at the magistrate’s court that they are summoned at. The original summons or written notice have to be present or attached to the letter. If the representation is successful, the summons will either be withdrawn or the fine will be reduced. If the representation is unsuccessful, they must appear in court if they do not pay the admission of guilt fine. An offender may have an attorney to represent them in court.
Note: Common defences for a reduction of the fines are: unemployment, lack of income to pay the fine or if an offender was not driving the car that is registered in their name.