Cape Town - The 2015/16 holiday season is upon us and millions of South Africans will take to the roads. Local authorities will (hopefully) be enforcing traffic laws as the nation's annual traffic-fine blitz begins.
Traffic violations are a contentious issue and given how prolific speeding cameras are in the country and the propensity for police to "hide behind bushes", it's understandable that many South Africans question the validity of traffic fines.
Read: How to fight traffic fines in SA: Top 5 questions answered
Do you know how to contest a traffic fine?
Responsible road behaviour
We encourage road users to obey the rules of the road and drive/ride
responsibly. However, YOU have the constitutional right to contest any
accusation of wrongdoing. The purpose of this article is to educate
users about South African traffic law and not to encourage reckless
motorists to endanger fellow road users.
SA expert responds
Justice Project South Africa chairman, Howard Dembovsky, shares competent advice for contesting traffic fines. He warns of unreliable "garbage" on the internet and urges drivers to know their rights.
Dembovsky said: "At the outset, I feel duty bound to warn all drivers not to take much reliance in any 'guide' or 'traffic-fines toolkit' that can be found all over the internet in an attempt to construct a do-it-yourself contestation of a traffic fine.
"I say this because there is an enormous amount of garbage on the internet which will achieve little more than to land you in even hotter water."
4 things you should know when contesting a traffic fine:
1. There are different types of fines
Dembovsky responds: "It is somewhat telling and extremely sad that most people regard traffic fines to be those issued for camera-speeding offences, red-light violations and little else. This has arisen from the propensity of many traffic departments around the country to embrace speed cameras and all but abandon physical law enforcement of moving violations.
"It would not however be true to say that all traffic law enforcement in South Africa is done by camera and you need to fully understand that if you have been summoned to appear in court by means of a summons in terms of Section 54 or a written notice in terms of Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Act and fail to appear in court if you have not otherwise disposed of the matter prior to the court date, a warrant for your arrest will be issued."
2. Know your rights
"It is your absolute Constitutional right to contest any accusation of wrongdoing, including but not limited to a traffic fine since Section 35 of the Constitution holds, amongst other things, that any accused person has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – not the other way around."
3. There is no one-size-fits-all answer
"Not only because every case differs but because there are currently two distinctly different pieces of legislation used to prosecute road traffic offences:
• The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act which is only applicable in the jurisdictions of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane; and
• The Criminal Procedure Act which applies everywhere else.
4. There are different forms and procedures
"Although the processes are similar, you cannot use the forms and procedures prescribed under AARTO to contest a fine issued under the Criminal Procedure Act and you cannot, for example, approach the public prosecutor under the AARTO Act like you can under the Criminal Procedure Act.
"As their names suggest, the AARTO Act is an administrative process, while the Criminal Procedure Act uses the criminal justice system. The consequences thereof are markedly different. JPSA has litigation in the High Court at this very moment to address this issue."
Have you contested a traffic fine? Were you successful? Email us and share your story on Twitter or Facebook.
Below are steps to take for contesting traffic fines:
Criminal Procedure Act – S341 (when you receive a traffic fine but not a court summons)
1. You may write to the traffic department.
2. You’ll need only the compounding notice number.
3. If you have the compounding notice, attach a copy of it to your letter. Keep the original safe.
4. Letters need not be accompanied by an affidavit.
5. You can post, fax or email your letter to the traffic department. You are not required to use registered mail if you post it, but it helps to establish a paper trail.
6. The traffic department may respond to you in writing. In reality this rarely happens.
7. If your representation is successful, the fine will either be cancelled or reduced.
8. The most common outcome is for the fine to be reduced because they want the money.
9. If your representation is unsuccessful, you will need to await the summons to be issued and served on you.
10. By paying the admission of guilt fine on the compounding notice (prior to a summons) you will not incur a criminal record.
Criminal Procedure Act – S54 or S56 (when you receive a summons to appear in court)
1. You may write to or approach the public prosecutor at the magistrates court you are summoned to appear in.
2. You’ll need the original S54 summons or S56 written notice.
3. If you write to him/her, attach a copy of the summons or written notice to your letter. Keep the original safe.
4. Letters need not be accompanied by an affidavit.
5. You can post, fax or email your letter to the public prosecutor. You are not required to use registered mail if you post it, but it helps to establish a paper trail.
6. If you write to the public prosecutor and do not deliver your letter in person, he/she may respond to you in writing. In reality this rarely happens.
7. If your representation is successful, the summons will either be withdrawn or the fine reduced. The most common outcome is for the fine to be reduced because they want the money.
8. If your representation is unsuccessful, you will have to appear in court if you do not pay the admission of guilt fine.
9. If you appear in court, you are strongly advised to have an attorney represent you but be careful to obtain one who is familiar with traffic law. There’s a lot of truth to the saying “a man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer” so be careful.
10. If you pay the admission of guilt fine or are found guilty in court, the Criminal Procedure Act says you must be given a criminal record.
AARTO Act – AARTO 01 or AARTO 03 (applies to Tshwane and Johannesburg)
1. You’ll need an AARTO 08 representation form from www.aarto.gov.za.
2. You’ll need all of the details required on that from, including the infringement notice number and issuing authority name
3. If you have any additional evidence, etc. you may attach it to your representation.
4. All AARTO 08 representations must be signed in front of a commissioner of oaths.
5. You submit this form by the methods stated on the form. You can upload it at the www.aarto.gov.za website. It is recommended that you use the facility on the AARTO website to submit it since this causes the status of the infringement notice to change to “representation” immediately on eNaTIS. You also get an AARTO 05c receipt to download immediately.
6. By law, you must be notified of the outcome of your representation on an AARTO 09 result of representation. In reality this rarely happens.
7. If your representation is successful, the infringement notice will be cancelled. If it is unsuccessful the RTIA may add a further R200 to the penalty if you made representation after 64 days had lapsed from the time of infringement.
8. If your representation is unsuccessful, you may elect to be tried in court, in which case a summons in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act must be served on you.
9. If you are found guilty in court, you will have to pay the fine but you will not incur a criminal record.
*Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures