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It's important to be reasonably polite when dealing with the police, but it's also crucial to know your rights - especially considering that within the past year about 600 policemen have been arrested for various crimes.
Here are some common scenarios that happen on our roads - and solutions, provided by the Automobile Association's Gary Ronald:
YOU’VE HAD TWO GLASSES OF WINE A BOOK CLUB AND GET PULLED OVER ON THE WAY HOME. THE BREATHALYSER SHOWS YOU’RE JUST ON THE LIMIT.
The reality: Don't drink and drive. Ever. There are people who will fetch you and drive you home. It's simply not worth it.
What is the limit? Two glasses of wine is above the limit in most instances, and you can be arrested immediately and your car impounded.
The rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit per hour, which constitutes 10ml of pure alcohol, based on a person weighing 68kg. It takes one hour to get rid of one unit, and our bodies can only process one unit of alcohol each hour.
In layman's terms, one unit is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with five percent alcohol content.
For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12 - 14 percent is acceptable.
Whisky and brandy connoisseurs can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.
Be aware that if you weigh less than 68kg your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol.
Your rights: You are entitled to call a lawyer, but don't try that straight away as it will only aggravate the situation, especially if you are on your own.
Who you gonna call? Justice Project SA instituted its “Priority Assist” service at the end of 2011 to deal with situations such as this on your behalf. Once you subscribe, you are provided with the telephone number for the JPSA call centre and will be able to call at any time for advice and assistance.
Their staff will either deal with the situation there and then while you are on the call, or will send a response unit to the site to deal with the situation. They can also organise a family friend or relative to pay bail, if necessary.
YOU’RE PULLED OVER BY A POLICE VEHICLE. THEY WANT TO SEARCH YOUR CAR
The reality: The Criminal Procedure Act states that a search without a warrant is allowed only if the officer suspects that your vehicle has been used in commiting a crime.
Your rights: The officer must say what they are looking for, and a woman's handbag may only be searched by a woman officer.
Who you gonna call? Again, the JPSA's Priority Assist can help. Afterwards, if the situation was handled inappropriately, lay a charge of indecent assault with the South African Police Service, and also phone the JMPD anti-corruption line on 011 490 1700, which operates 24/7, and lay a complaint there too.
THE OFFICER WHO PULLED YOU OVER WANTS A BRIBE, WHAT DO YOU DO?
The reality: “I'm thirsty,” or “So, what should we do about this?” are common prompts for a bribe. Another is the officer threatening you with an excessive fine amount and/or demerit points that apply to the infringement you have just committed.
Your rights: The recommended response is, “Well, then, you are just going to have to give me a ticket”.
If the officer refuses, then ask if you can go with a warning. Whatever you do, don't pay a bribe.
No matter how small it is, it just leads to more corruption.
Who you gonna call? Bribe attempts should be reported to your nearest police station, through Corruption Watch, or to Crime Line with an SMS to 32211.
Try to gather information on the officer concerned by noting the police vehicle's number plates, vehicle service number and of course, first prize, the officer's name.
AT A ROADBLOCK THE OFFICER PRINTS OUT A LIST OF UNPAID FINES, THEN TELLS YOU TO GET OUT OF YOUR CAR AND INTO AN OFFICIAL VAN.
The reality: Under no circumstances may you be forced to pay outstanding fines at the roadside.
A warrant for arrest can only be issued if you have received and ignored a summons to appear in court. So if there is no warrant of arrest, stay in your car.
If you are told to get out of your car and go and sit in one of their vans until you pay your fines, this constitutes unlawful arrest - even if they don't tell you that you are under arrest.
But remember, the best way to avoid being stopped for outstanding fines is not to have them in the first place.