Friday, 5 September 2014

Traffic court orders against you

So I was driving happily along, saw a road block and thought I had nothing to worry about.  I have paid most of my fines, sure I might have a few fines that I hadn't paid yet, but it hadn't been that long yet.
So their Registration plate scanner beeped (first time it had happened to me so I didn't know what was happening), I got pulled over and they nice police lady said they were just going to check outstanding fines against my name.  It turned out I had a "fine" for going over 80kmph in a 40kmph zone!  All I understood was that I had a court order against my name

After doing a huge search for having court orders against your name in South Africa and drawing a total blank I searched for warrant of arrest and managed to find some people's experiences on
This guy got 15 Summons and pitched at court
This guy got a summons and was wondering about pitching at court

So it appears there are two stages to being able to be arrested.
Stage 1 is that you do not pay a fine and you are issued a summons.
Stage 2 is that you received the summons and did not appear in court.
You can only be arrested once it has reached stage 2.

The worst part about this is that the police apparently can print and sign a summons right on the side of the road and then arrest you immediately after you sign it (refusing to sign it makes no difference, although the Justice Project said to me that this doesn't happen, it is just another scare tactic).  My problem is that I have been fined for travelling more than 30kmph above the speed limit.  Apparently this is grounds for an immediate court case and if you are found guilty / pay the admission of guilt fine you will end up with a criminal record!

This sounds crazy to me, especially as I had just gone a few metres past the 40kmph sign.  So I got some advice and went to the AARTO website (the best place to get the most detail about your fine) and looked up the fines.  It seems there has been no summons issued yet, phew.

Some sound advice I have received so far is,

  1. Find a criminal lawyer to engage with because you are going to need one
  2. Pay all other outstanding fines.
  3. Send letters to the Court and Traffic Department requesting the documents detailing the offence
  4. Wait for the summons letter
  5. Do not avoid road blocks
I actually paid all the outstanding fines and went through a roadblock again the other day.  As it turns out they didn't pull me over, the scanner didn't beep!  The real reason I was pulled over previously was because I hadn't paid fines, not because of the court orders!

Anyway, lesson learnt. I'm paying my fines from now on (well, actually trying not to get them in the first place)