Each year during the festive season, South Africans are confronted with more stringent road blocks and possible arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol. The current legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content is:

  • LESS THAN 0,05g/100ml of blood sampled if you are an ordinary driving licence holder; or
  • LESS THAN 0,02g/100ml of blood sampled if you are the holder of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP), for example a taxi driver or a bus driver.

Whilst the legal limit in respect of Breath Alcohol Content is:

  • LESS THAN 0,24mg/1000ml of breath sampled if you are an ordinary driving licence holder; or
  • LESS THAN 0,10mg/1000ml of breath sampled if you are the holder of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP), for example a taxi driver or a bus driver.

Although it is always better to refrain from drinking alcohol if you have to drive, it is important to know what your rights are when pulled over by a police officer for driving under the influence:

  1. You may request that the officer provide identification irrespective of whether or not they are in uniform. If the officer is unable to provide an appointment certificate on demand he or she is in violation of the Criminal Procedure Act and any actions taken by him or her will be unlawful;
  2. If the officer requests you to take a breath or blood alcohol test, you may not refuse. If you refuse, you are in contravention of the National Road Traffic Act and necessary force may be inflicted upon you by the officer to take the required samples;
  3. Samples for your blood alcohol content or breath alcohol content must be taken within 2 hours of the alleged transgression (being pulled over by the officer);
  4. You may only be legally arrested after it has been established by the officer that your blood or breath alcohol level exceeds the legal limit. In other words, you may not be arrested merely because your breath smells of alcohol;
  5. You have the right to remain silent and not to make self-incriminating statements. In other words, you do not have to disclose to the officer how many drinks you had;
  6. You have the right to know who the registered medical practitioner is that takes your samples. You may also request for access to your own medical practitioner if he or she is available, the costs of which will be for your personal account;
  7. If you have been arrested, you may use a telephone to contact a relative or an attorney;
  8. If you are on chronic medication, you have the right to take your medication whilst in police custody if a doctor so prescribes;
  9. You have the right to apply for bail once you have been charged and an Investigating Officer has been assigned to your case. If bail is refused for whatever reason, you have to appear in court within 48 hours of your arrest, or during the first court day after the expiry of the 48 hours if the period expires outside ordinary court hours or on a day which is not an ordinary court day. The latter applies when you have for example been arrested on a Friday night and you will then only appear in court during the upcoming Monday;
  10. You have the right to being treated fairly and with respect by all the officers involved and the station where you are being held must provide you with food and water;

It is always better to give your co-operation and to be friendly with the officers.

Remember that it is a criminal offence to bribe police officers. If you are requested to pay a bribe by an officer, immediately report the offence to the relevant authorities.

We wish you a safe and memorable festive season!

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.  Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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