search


CAR INSURANCE

Know your rights: what to do in a roadblock in South Africa






Roadblocks: they’re commonplace on South African roads and often a point of contention. Everyone in the neighbourhood WhatsApp group has a theory as to what is and isn’t legal for all parties in these situations. Here are the straight-up facts about your rights in a roadblock.

Roadblocks vs roadside checks

The first step to understanding your rights at a roadblock is to understand the different types of roadblocks in South Africa. (We know – nothing is ever as simple as we’d all like it to be). Your rights vary depending on the type of roadblock.

The first type of roadblock is a roadside check or informal roadblock: those ‘not-me-not-me-not-me’ situations where an officer steps out into the road and pulls off a seemingly random car, or when blue lights and sirens break out behind you out of nowhere. The primary goal of these roadside checks is to curb drunk driving and speeding, and to identify unroadworthy vehicles. Officers are also allowed to check for outstanding fines at an informal roadblock.

A police officer may not search your vehicle or person during a roadside check, unless there is reasonable cause for suspicion (more on this shortly).

A formal roadblock, officially called a K78 roadblock, is a roadblock that has been approved by the National Police Commissioner. It’s the cones-on-the-road, traffic-being-impeded, nobody-can-avoid-this-one type of roadblock. Here, officers are allowed to search your vehicle and your person without a warrant, and seize evidence.


The first step is to understand the different types of roadblocks in South Africa: informal roadside checks and formal K78 roadblocks.


Not all searches are created equal

If an officer requests to search your vehicle or person, you are legally allowed to ask them to show you the authorisation letter for the roadblock (a copy is acceptable).

No authorisation paperwork? You have the right to deny the officer access to you and your vehicle. Simple. However, if an officer believes they have reasonable grounds to perform a search without a warrant, and is able to prove this in a court of law at a later stage, they may perform a search. (It’s a bit of a grey area, we agree.)

What would constitute ‘reasonable grounds’? As an example, the police may be looking for someone who has committed a crime and is known to be travelling by car in that area at the time, or they may believe that you were a witness to a crime and are trying to leave the scene (a hit-and-run situation, for example).

Paperwork produced? Okay: check that the information is valid. The date, duration and purpose of the roadblock should all fit the situation you find yourself in. If it all adds up, they’re legally within their right to search your car. When it comes to your person, a male officer is not allowed to search a woman. If no female officers are present, you are within your right to wait inside your car for a female officer, even if it means they need to call in another squad car.


Put your wallet away

There is no reason for money to change hands at a roadblock – not for a fine and definitely not for a bribe.

Even if you have outstanding fines, you are not legally obliged by the South African constitution to pay the fine on the spot. There may be a legit facility available to settle the fine, but you are not legally required to do so to be released from the roadblock.

Speaking of fines, you cannot be arrested for outstanding ones, even if there’s a big pile (tsk tsk!). However, if the officer has a copy of a Warrant of Arrest that has been issued for you because of one or more of those unpaid fines, then they are within their rights to arrest you.


There is no reason for money to change hands at a roadblock – not for a fine and definitely not for a bribe.


’Please blow into this device…’

If an officer suspects that the driver of a vehicle is under the influence of alcohol, they are legally allowed to request that you perform a breathalyser test, regardless of the type of roadblock. And you are legally obliged to comply.

What happens if you refuse a breathalyser? Well, first of all, know that refusing to take a breathalyser test is a criminal offence in terms of the National Road Traffic Act. You may also be deemed to be defeating the ends of justice, which could lead to your being arrested. The officer has the right to detain you and take you to the nearest facility (be it a police station, clinic or mobile blood-drawing unit at the roadblock) for blood tests.


Refusing to take a breathalyser test is a criminal offence, which could lead to your being arrested.


If you take the breathalyser (recommended) and it’s above the legal limit (decidedly not recommended), you will be arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. You will then be driven to the nearest facility for blood tests. Legally, the blood tests need to be done within two hours of being pulled over, otherwise the results will not be admissible in court.

Only a medical person (a registered nurse, medical practitioner or medical officer of a prison) is authorised to take your blood specimen, and a police officer is required to be present. You have every right to request that sterilised equipment is opened in front of you.

You are also entitled to request that your own medical practitioner be present while the blood is being taken. However, if this causes a delay to the procedure beyond the two-hour time limit, you will be charged for obstruction of justice.

And if you refuse any form of testing, whatsoever? It’s straight to lock-up for you.

You may be wondering what happens to your car while you’re off having blood tests. One of your sober passengers will be allowed to drive it to the relevant police station. If none of the crew is sober, a police officer will drive it for you.


Do not pass go. Do not collect R200

There are a number of instances in which you could end up being (legally) arrested in a roadblock. These include but are not limited to:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics
  • Refusing a breathalyser
  • Committing a serious traffic offence (for example, speeding or reckless driving)
  • Driving without licence plates, or with fraudulent ones
  • Being physically or verbally abusive towards an officer.

If, for whatever reason, you are arrested, the officer is required by law to read you your rights and charges. On top of this, the officer has to take you directly to the nearest police station or court for processing; they are not allowed to keep you detained in their vehicle while conducting other duties.


Safety first

You’re driving on an isolated road at night and blue lights fire up behind you. You’re alone and you don’t feel safe pulling over. We understand. Fortunately, you’re not legally bound to stop. Instead, slow down to 40km/h (or lower), switch on your hazards and wave out the window to signal that you’d like the vehicle to follow you. Drive to the nearest police or petrol station where you’re clearly visible by people and CCTV cameras.

In the instance that you’ve stopped at a roadblock and feel threatened, calmly ask the officer for their badge number – you’re within your legal rights to do so. You are also entitled to dial 10111 and ask the operator to verify the individual’s badge number or licence plate.

If an officer at a roadblock becomes agitated, remain calm. Remember that the roadside is not a courthouse. Take down all the details you can (badge number, licence plates, time, location, witnesses) and submit a formal complaint at a later stage (you can do so via the Independent Police Investigative Directorate).

And yes, it’s within your legal rights to film or photograph incidents and officers at a roadblock. It’s also illegal for them to confiscate or damage your device or to force you to delete any footage you took.

Be safe out there!



PUBSLISHED DATE

18 July 2022

RELATED ARTICLES

ARTICLES & GUIDES

HOME LOANS
Buying your first home? We’ve got the answers to your burning questions
Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase that you’ll make in your lifetime. As a first-time buyer, the prospect can seem a little (okay, a lot!) daunting. Home loans, deposits, OTPs, credit history, prequalification… You have ... Read more
PERSONAL LOANS
Consolidate your debt now: here’s how
It happens to the best of us: a credit card here, a store account there. Soon, the bills are coming at you thick and fast and you can’t keep track of how much you owe on which account and when. You probably also find yourself with... Read more
CAR INSURANCE
Essential emergency items you should keep in your car
Whether you’re going on a long road trip or just popping to the shop, there are certain items you want to keep in your car in case life presents you with a little on-the-road surprise. And we’re not just talking about a spare tyre... Read more
CAR INSURANCE
Know your rights: what to do in a roadblock in South Africa
Roadblocks: they’re commonplace on South African roads and often a point of contention. Everyone in the neighbourhood WhatsApp group has a theory as to what is and isn’t legal for all parties in these situations. Here are the stra... Read more


RELATED ARTICLES

ARTICLES & GUIDES

HOME LOANS
Buying your first home? We’ve got the answers to your burning questions
Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase that you’ll make in your lifetime. As a first-time buyer, the prospect can seem a little (okay, a lot!) daunting. Home loans, deposits, OTPs, credit history, prequalification… You have questions. We get it. But don’t panic: we’ve got all the answers. . Read more
PERSONAL LOANS
Consolidate your debt now: here’s how
It happens to the best of us: a credit card here, a store account there. Soon, the bills are coming at you thick and fast and you can’t keep track of how much you owe on which account and when. You probably also find yourself with empty pockets soon after payday, with still more ‘overdue’ notices arriving in your inbox.. Read more


Compare and Save


Compare online and save on car insurance, personal loans, home loans, and so much more.

Tools & calculators


A bit stuck on where to begin with your personal loan or car insurance search? We’ve developed some nifty tools and calculators to help you get started.


Sign up here!

Sign up here!

Join our mailing list for all our latest news and articles.





Copyright © 2022 bettercompare. All Rights Reserved.

Follow us


We are not owned by or affiliated to the companies listed on the site or in our call centre.


© 2022 Better Compare (PTY) Ltd is an Authorised Financial Services Provider

(FSP no. 49357) 24 Flanders Drive, Mount Edgecombe, KZN, 4300


We are not owned by or affiliated to the companies listed on the site or in our call centre.


© 2022 Better Compare (PTY) Ltd is an Authorised Financial Services Provider

(FSP no. 49357) 24 Flanders Drive, Mount Edgecombe, KZN, 4300