Stay safe this festive season
It’s December, and Omicron notwithstanding, South Africans are beginning to celebrate the festive season. The public holiday on the 16th of December will herald the annual leave season, and drinking and driving will once again be an issue.
This year there are a few new factors to keep in mind. Firstly, there is still a curfew in place. You have to be home by midnight. This still gives plenty of time for an enjoyable social evening, and you may be grateful for a full night’s sleep. If you are in a bar or restaurant, you will have no choice but to leave by 11.00, as establishments must close by then to ensure staff get home by midnight. However, if you are visiting friends, it is easy to lose track of time. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get home. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you leave on time. Being arrested for breaching curfew would not get your festive season off to a good start.
AARTO Act – changes to drink and drive limits
Secondly, the proposed 0% blood alcohol content (BAC) has not yet been enacted, but it seems that not all police officers are aware of this. We know of someone who was stopped at a roadblock recently with only residual alcohol on her breath, a result of spitting out wine while hosting a tasting. However, the officer informed her that the limit was now zero and she was going to be arrested. For some reason, he changed his mind and let her go, but you might not be so lucky. (And no…no money changed hands.) Be safe: assume the limit is zero. If you’re going to be drinking, leave the car at home and take a taxi or ride-hailing service.
Arrive alive – don’t drink and drive!
South Africa loses c.14,000 people to road traffic accidents (RTAs) every year. The government cites the causes of most accidents as excessive speed, driving with fatigue, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with vehicles that are not roadworthy, and negligence of traffic rules. The December and Easter holidays usually see RTAs spike, as more people take to the roads to visit family or escape cities and enjoy our beautiful beaches, mountains and game parks. Every one of these factors is under your control. Stay within the speed limit. Don’t drive when you are very tired and stop and rest if you need to. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition, and obey the rules of the road. Most importantly, don’t drink and drive.
If you are stopped in a roadblock
If, despite your precautions, you are stopped at a roadblock, what should you do? If you are under suspicion of DUI, you will be breathalysed. If you’re over the legal limit you will be taken into custody and sent for a blood alcohol test. If the roadblock is a mobile alcohol evidentiary unit, your blood will be tested immediately. If you are innocent you will be released. If you are over the limit, you will probably be charged, as you won’t need to be transferred to a testing centre, where the delay could mean a lower blood alcohol level by the time the test is administered. You will be allowed to phone a lawyer. If you’re detained, you have the right to consult your lawyer or apply for legal aid if you can’t afford a lawyer. The police must inform you of this right. You may be released on bail or you may be detained until your court appearance.
Arrested for DUI
If the worst happens and you are arrested for DUI, don’t make a bad situation dreadful. Follow this advice to navigate the criminal justice system as smoothly as possible.
- Don’t resist!
Don’t resist arrest or refuse a breathalyser test. Stay calm, be polite and courteous, and comply with all the police officer’s requests. If you’re not sober, it can be difficult to think straight and you may be argumentative. But making jokes or challenging the officer’s judgement will only make your situation worse. Try to remember this now, while you are in a sober state. Hopefully your survival instinct will help you know what to do when you need it.
- Admit nothing!
Be polite and compliant with law enforcement officers at all times, but do not volunteer information. It won’t help your case to say “I only had one drink.” This is basically an admission of guilt. Give your name, address and ID number, and no more. Even if the officer asks how many drinks you’ve had, you don’t have to answer. Don’t answer questions that could incriminate you without an attorney present.
- Call a criminal defence lawyer
Call your lawyer. If you call us, we will come to your assistance 24/7. We are experts in negotiating bail. You may be kept in a cell overnight to sober up. We have an excellent track record in securing bail for clients, but much will depend on the time of night you are arrested, how drunk you are, and the mood of the investigating officer. However, you are entitled to a phone call – use it to call a bail attorney, not your mother. It’s your best chance of sleeping in your own bed that night.
What happens next?
When you are released from custody, either the same night or the next day…or Monday morning if it is a weekend and you are very unlucky…you will be given a court date. In all likelihood it will be postponed, so be prepared for a long wait. It can take months before your case is heard.
Bear in mind…
In addition to these three tips, bear in mind a few key points. Don’t judge your level of inebriation by someone else’s. Everyone processes alcohol differently, based on blood volume, level of hydration and metabolism. You may think you are close to home and don’t have to travel on any major roads. You won’t encounter any roadblocks, so you decide it’s safe to drive home if you’ve had one too many. Now imagine your neighbour has the same idea. They are driving under the influence, and they crash into you. If they are killed, even if they caused the accident, you will be culpable for their death by virtue of being over the limit.
Even worse: a pedestrian crosses the road in front of you. They didn’t look where they were going and maybe they had also had a few beers with friends in a bar. Many pedestrians killed in RTAs are under the influence themselves. But if you’ve been drinking, the incident is automatically your fault. If someone is hurt or killed, you will face a criminal conviction.
Save our number, just in case
Cape Town attorneys SD Law & Associates are experts in DUI. If you are arrested for drinking and driving, contact criminal defence lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 076 116 0623. Save the number in your phone…better safe than sorry.
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- DUI? Tis the season for roadblocks
- What are my legal rights at a roadblock?
- Non-payment of traffic fines
The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.