I am often asked by clients and friends what they should do when they are stopped at a roadblock on their way home from a restaurant, the golf club or a social event where alcohol was consumed.
My first reaction is always: “Do not drink and drive!” However, we are human and sometimes we overstep the legal boundaries when it comes to drinking and driving. In South Africa the challenge is that public transport is not always available and safe.
In terms of the National Road Traffic Act, 93 of 96, a driver may be charged on the main count for driving a vehicle on a public road whilst under the influence of intoxicating liquor or alternatively driving a motor vehicle on a public road whilst a driver’s blood alcohol content is not less than 0.05 gram per 100ml blood. In the case of drivers of heavy motor vehicles, it should be less than 0.02 gram per 100ml blood.
Kindly note that if convicted on either the main count or the alternative count (as stated above), your driver’s license is automatically suspended in terms of the Act. In the case of a first offender, the period of suspension is six months. However, the Magistrate does have a discretion to set aside the automatic suspension if the Court is satisfied that circumstances exist which do not justify the suspension of the driver’s license. These circumstances normally do not have any bearing on the driver’s personal situation. The Court will consider the following when exercising its discretion: what specifically led to the driver’s decision to drive the vehicle whilst either under the influence of intoxicating liquor or the alternative of driving a vehicle when his blood alcohol content was not within the legal limit.
In some countries there is a zero tolerance in respect of the above. First offenders invariably receive automatic imprisonment after conviction on a charge of drunken driving. Taking into account the high percentage of road accidents where alcohol plays a role, we are destined to move in the same direction.
Turning to the question: “What should I do?” It is important to always act in a polite manner towards the police or traffic officer when accosted. Always cooperate when asked to answer questions. The following basic questions will be asked: your name, address and occupation. In all instances you will be requested to produce proof of your driver’s license. Do not divulge too much information about what you had to drink. Cooperate with the doctor who does the clinical examination and takes a blood sample. You cannot refuse to give a sample of your blood. In any event if you do this, it is to your own disadvantage.
It is important to take specific note of the time period from when you were arrested until the blood sample was taken by the doctor. The Act requires that the blood sample must be taken within two hours from the time of your arrest. The reason is that within this period, one obtains the most accurate reading of the alcohol content in your blood. Also observe how the blood sample is taken and sealed by the doctor – this should all be done in your presence.
Note that the intake of medicine does not normally have an influence on the outcome of the analysis of the blood sample.
Finally, you are entitled to call your attorney to assist you once you are arrested. That is a fundamental right that you have. Faure & Faure Incorporated has several Attorneys who have experience in this regard. You are welcome to contact:
- Christie Viviers, Director – cell number: 082 455 6412;
- Conrad Coetzee, Associate – cell number: 060 997 6555;
- Inge Johnson, Professional Assistant – cell number: 083 302 1913; and
- Benedict Asia, Article Clerk – cell number: 072 725 9751.
If you are interested to learn more about your rights and obligations in respect of these matters, you are welcome to contact our offices at 021 871 1200.
Article by Faure & Faure Inc. Director, Christie Viviers.