In this article, we share the 4 best tips about traffic fines as well as answer the most frequently asked questions when dealing with that dreaded traffic ticket.
Traffic Fines in South Africa
You may be tempted to ignore fines in favor of other pressing bills and debts, like your bond or vehicle finance. But fines are different from other debts because they’re penalties imposed by the government for breaking the law. The consequences of not paying them can be serious, like the loss of your driver’s license or even imprisonment.
Steps to take if you’re struggling to pay your traffic fines
- Make sure you understand what type of traffic fine it is, as this informs the amount of time you have to pay it. There are two kinds of fines: a Section 56 notice, which is an instant summons issued directly to you while on the road by a traffic officer, and a Section 341 traffic ticket, the first in a series of notices that is either attached to your car while you’re not present (that dreaded pink leaflet) or is issued by post if your offence is caught on camera.
- If you’ve received a camera fine, you can view the photo at your nearest Traffic Department in or, in most (but not all) cases, online at paycity.co.za
- Take note of how long you have to make payment. The length of time given depends on the type of fine and works as follows:
- Section 56 notice: this ticket type features a court date (three to four months from the issue date) and a payment due date (two weeks prior to the court date). If you haven’t paid by the payment date, you still have these two weeks of grace leading up to the court date to do so.
- Section 341 traffic ticket: once you’ve been issued this ticket, you have 30 days to pay before you’ll receive a ‘Notice before Summons’, giving you another 30 days to cough up the necessary cash (60 days in total; though, in SA time, this could be significantly longer). After this period, you’ll receive a summons that indicates a court date (roughly three to four months from date of receipt) and a payment due date (two weeks prior to the court date). As with a Section 56 notice, despite the indicated due date, you can still pay up until the court date without incurring late fees.
Lastly, pay the fine if you don’t plan to challenge it, preferably as soon as possible. Payment can be made by cash, cheque, postal order, or electronic transfer.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Traffic Fines
How do I go about contesting or reducing a traffic fine?
Believe it or not, if you have a good rationale, it’s definitely worth challenging a ticket – the City’s traffic department is, in fact, open to reducing penalties or even canceling them altogether. The best way to contest a fine (before you receive a summons) is to write a letter clearly stating your motivations and post it, along with a copy of the ticket, to the address above.
If you’ve already received a summons, you’ll have to go directly to the public prosecutor at the court mentioned on the notice and present your argument and a written statement in person (this must be done prior to your court date). As for what constitutes a good reason for the reduction or dismissal of a fine, well honesty is important, but they’ll take into account things like employment status, financial stability, whether or not you were aware you were transgressing the law, and whether or not there was a medical or another emergency at the time (“I was late for work” or “I wanted to test how fast my new BMW can go” don’t usually fly).
If you feel the fine was unlawfully issued, try to include evidence, like photographs (some ingenious individuals have even made use of images from Google Earth to prove that speed cameras were illegally positioned).
What are the consequences if I just don’t pay my fine?
Well, in a South Africa where administrative departments are poorly run, at best, sometimes, to be honest, there aren’t any. Though, that’s a risky game to play. Typically, if you don’t pay, you’ll receive a summons to go to court, where you can argue your case in person (if you don’t succeed in having the fine dismissed, you’ll generally then have to pay the full amount at this point).
If you’re not present on your court date, you will be held in contempt of court, the charges become much more serious and a warrant for your arrest will be issued (remember, you cannot be arrested for outstanding fines, only for ignoring a court’s orders).
Can a police officer issue me with a traffic fine?
Yes, contrary to popular belief, it’s not only traffic officials (officers in blue uniform) who have the power to present people with tickets – members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Law Enforcement, and the Metro Police all have the authority to do so too.
Will I ever be under obligation to pay a traffic fine on the spot at the time of the offence?
If a traffic officer is insisting that you pay a fine then and there, he’s breaking the law and probably planning to pocket the money. No traffic officer should accept cash on the road; the fee for the fine needs to be paid to a traffic department, and an official receipt should be issued.
The only time you may have the option of paying on the road is at a roadblock where there is a formal cash facility. But even here, though police officials have the right to issue you a summons, they cannot legally coerce you into coughing up on the spot.
What happens if I get a traffic fine in a rental car?
If the fine was issued because of an offence you committed, you’ll be liable to pay it along with the rental company’s set administration fee (usually just over R200). If the vehicle has already been returned when the fine is received (if it’s posted), the business will use its records to trace the ticket to you and redirect the costs.
At this point, if you’d like to, you can contest the fine as a normal citizen would do using the method described above. If, however, the fault lies with the car hire company (in the case of an expired license disc), they’ll be responsible for covering the cost.
Is warning motorists of roadblocks illegal?
The act of warning a fellow motorist about roadblocks, either by flashing lights or on social media is illegal. There are no specific laws against this practice yet, but it still defeats the ends of justice.
Source: Cape Town Magazine