Holiday Season Legal “Need to Know” facts (Part 1)

Are you a matriculant planning your matric holiday or a family heading towards the coast for a well-deserved break? Nothing dampers the seasonal spirit more than planning, saving, and taking the road, just to head into a “trap” on the way, get fined, or experience some form of crime or violation whilst trying to relax.


In the first of this two-part series, we will discuss the traffic headaches as you travel to and from your holiday destinations.


Very few people do not hold their breath when they notice blue lights ahead in traffic, regardless of whether all requirements are met, including licenses, registration, working lights, and adhering to speed limitations.  Realistically many drivers are intimidated, or even exploited by police in our country.  Even though this is a daily occurrence in our country, and drivers have rights, it is still advisable not to get involved in an argument or be perceived as confrontational in the event of being pulled over and searched.


In your best interest, it is important to understand your rights, and what actions to take should your rights be infringed upon.


Firstly, Be Calm, and secondly, remember the following as detailed in the article found on the Arrive Alive website: “Rights and Obligations when stopped by a Traffic Officer” (Arrive Alive, n.d.).   Do not, under any circumstances proclaim that you know your rights, tell them how they should do their jobs, or provoke any officer at any time.


There is a distinction between Road Blocks and Roadside Checks.


Roadblocks are definitive as the roads are physically blocked in one or both directions, and therefore obstruct the flow of traffic.  Roadblocks are regulated by Section 13(8) of the South African Police Service Act, No. 68 of 1955, and means that there must be proof of written authorisation commissioned by the National or Provincial Commissioner.  The roadblocks must be visible by signs, traffic cones, and the like.


Your obligations in the case of a roadblock include stopping and complying when requested to produce proof of registration and licenses or letting the officers (police or traffic officer) search your vehicle. Having lots of patience in these situations will be to your benefit. Not stopping is a criminal offense that then requires further legal assistance and means you’ll miss out on your entire holiday and have a very unhappy spouse and family.  At a roadblock, search and seizure are permitted without a warrant.


Should you believe that your constitutional right is infringed upon, you may request to see the written authorisation of the roadblock which then must be shown by the officers on site.  It is of vital importance to request this calmly and respectfully with witnesses if possible.  Should no authorisation be produced, it will not be in your best interest to address this in the current setting.  Again, it is advisable to not confront anyone, but rather report it to SAPS later or if civil action is required, contact your attorney for advice.


Roadside Checks on the other hand differ in the sense that traffic officers in uniform, which includes local or provincial employed traffic officers, SAPS members, and Metro Police, will be parked next to the road and certain vehicles will be selected and indicated to pull off at random, to conduct vehicle or driver fitness checks.


Unlike popular belief, Section 3I of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) does not authorise search and seizure without a warrant, however, this does not mean that search and/or seizure is strictly forbidden.  Search and seizure is allowed if any of the reasonable grounds detailed in the “exceptions to the rules” in respect of roadblocks exist or, alternatively, you consent to a search.


As very few people know the provisions and regulations within the NRTA by heart, none of us will be able to determine what is allowed when confronted by this situation next to the road.  You probably won’t be able to get ‘roadside assistance’ from your attorney at that particular time which is why we recommend you comply as far as possible and report any concerns to local authorities and discuss them with your attorney as soon as possible.


For more information about what is allowed and what is not permitted in either Roadblock or Roadside Check, please follow the link to the Arrive Alive article:

Rights and Obligations when stopped by a Traffic Officer


Burden Swart & Botha Inc.’s attorneys have the skills and expertise to assist you with a variety of civil litigation services. We can provide you with the legal advice and services you need.  Even though our offices will close between the 21st of December and the 4th of January 2023, we do have a number to contact in case of emergencies and we will respond to email inquiries.


Arrive Alive. (n.d.). Arrive Alive. Retrieved from,impede%20the%20flow%20of%20traffic.