How to fight traffic fines in SA: Top 5 questions answered

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 TRAFFIC FINES FAQ'S ANSWERED: Wheels24 asked two experts to shed some light on five most frequently asked questions about traffic fines. Image: iStock ~ iStock

Cape Town - On Monday, Wheels24 published a guide on how to contest traffic fines.

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.

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.

How to contest traffic fines

Wheels24 asked South African experts Howard Dembovsky (Justice Project South Africa national chairman) and Alta Swanepoel (of Alta Swanepoel & Associates CC) to shed some light five most frequently asked questions about traffic fines:

READ: Traffic fines - How to fight a law infringement

1 If you never received a notification of a traffic violation but can't renew your car licence because of it, what should you do?

Dembovsky said: "JPSA receives countless queries on this very issue every single day, particularly since the RTIA went berserk issuing enforcement orders under the AARTO Act earlier this year. 

"We therefore resolved to publish an advisory on this to prevent us having to answer the same questions over and over again. Read it here.

"The advisory contemplates all of the conditions which can cause a license disc, renewal of a driving license or a PrDP to be withheld and offers practical advice on how to identify and sort the problem out."

Swanepoel said: "The only time you will be refused a licence disc is if you have a warrant or and Enforcement order under AARTO. An enforcement order is served by registered mail and a warrant is the result of the failure to attend court on a section 56 notice or 54 summons. Both must be served and not mailed."

2 If you receive a fine (captured by a speed camera), should there always be ONE car in the image?

Dembovsky said: "No. This is ONLY applicable to class A radar which is very rarely used in South Africa any more."

Swanepoel said: "The car must be the only car in the specific lane. Other vehicles may be behind or next to him. It is just an overlap that will obviously cause confusion."

3 If you were snapped/ticketed in 2014 and only receive the fine in 2015, is it still valid? What is the time frame for  a traffic fine to reach an offender?

Dembovsky said: "The TCSP guidelines for prosecutions using speed measuring equipment and traffic light violation equipment has reference.

"Under the AARTO Act, which is only applicable in the jurisdictions of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, the infringement notice must be issued and served upon alleged infringer, either in person or by registered mail within 40 days of the alleged infringement. This prescript is contained in Regulation 3(1)(b) of the AARTO Regulations.

"Under the Criminal Procedure Act, which applies everywhere else, a compounding notice in terms of Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act must be issued within 30 days of the alleged offence. It may be posted to the alleged offender and Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act does not prescribe that such a notice must be served in person or by registered mail." 

Swanepoel said: "The AARTO legislation allows for a 40 day service period after the infringement. In the rest of the country a normal notice – sec 341 has to be sent within 30 days. This is done by normal mail. After that the DPP offices have time periods within which the sec 341 must be followed-up by a section 54 summons. Generally that is between 12 and 24 months."

4 If you have several unpaid fines can you be given a reduction? What is the procedure?

Swanepoel said: "Some prosecutors do have the practice of doing that however there is no guideline or rule on it. It is not possible in the AARTO system."

Dembovsky said: "If you have AARTO fines, then no. The AARTO Act does however have as one of its options, provision for you to apply to pay in instalments, but this offering of credit is dependent on the value of each fine as a standalone issue and the maximum term the RTIA will grant you is six months, for fines of a higher penalty amount.

"If you have fines issued under the Criminal Procedure Act, then yes, you can visit the public prosecutor at the Magistrates Court which has jurisdiction over them and ask him or her to reduce the fines. 

"However it must be borne in mind that if those fines are scattered through different jurisdictions you are unlikely to succeed to any great degree. 

"A prosecutor in Ekurhuleni for example will not care much for how much you have managed to build up in Cape Town. 

"It may surprise you but there are an additional 241 traffic authorities other than the JMPD and TMPD in South Africa and each and every one of them comprises a different jurisdiction which has no authority over the other jurisdictions. 

"It is also worthwhile noting that none of them are in any way obliged to allow you a way to establish whether you have traffic fines with them through online websites such as www.paycity.co.za,  www.viewfines.co.za or other websites.

"The AARTO website  at carries all of the infringement notices issued within the jurisdictions of the Johannesburg and Tshwane Metropolitan Police Departments only."

4 Can you contest fines if you never received notifications?

Swanepoel said: "You may make a representation to the RTIA if it is a AARTO notice or make a representation to the prosecutor of the court in whose area the ticket was issued."

JPSA said: "Most certainly you may if they were incurred where the AARTO Act is in force.

"Where the Criminal Procedure Act is in force, so basically everywhere except the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, it will depend on whether the “fine” was issued on a compounding notice in terms of Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act or whether it has escalated to a summons in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

"If it is still at the stage of a compounding notice in terms of Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act, then you cannot contest it based on the fact that it was not served on you, because there is no prescript in Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act that it must be served on you. You may however contest it if the date of the issue of the first notice was later than 30 days from the alleged offence.

"A summons in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act unfortunately allows for that summons to be served on any person who is apparently over the age of 16 years who resides at your last known residential or work address on the NaTIS registry.

"If your address details are not up to date on the NaTIS registry it is highly likely that the first time that you become aware of the existence of a summons in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act will be when you are arrested at a roadblock since not attending court is regarded to be contempt of court and Magistrates issue warrants of arrest in these circumstances.

"Sometimes, process servers are lazy and/or act fraudulently by stating on the return of service that they have served the summons on a non-existent person. In this case you would have grounds to challenge the service of the summons and possibly to even register a case of defeating the ends of justice against the perpetrator, but this will not alter the fact that you will be arrested. You may also then have grounds for a civil claim against the process server who caused you to be arrested."

Are you in the process of contesting a traffic fine? Email us about dealing with the relevant authorities.