Non-payment of traffic fines

Traffic fines

Can you be arrested?

Can you be arrested for non-payment of traffic fines? There is a lot of confusion around AARTO – the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act. It was declared unconstitutional and invalid by the Pretoria High Court in January, but the Road Traffic Infringement Agency warned that it remains valid until the Constitutional Court decides to scrap it, which has not happened yet. However, you cannot be arrested for non-payment of traffic fines.

A traffic fine is not an arrest warrant

A provision has been removed from the AARTO Act, which means that motorists cannot be issued with a warrant of arrest for failing to pay their traffic fines. A traffic fine is not a warrant of arrest. An arrest warrant is issued by a judicial officer, not a traffic officer, if a person has been summoned to court and has failed to appear.

Enforcement order

The means for ensuring that motorists pay their outstanding fines is an enforcement letter. Under the amended AARTO process, a motorist found in contravention of regulations will receive an infringement notice. If this is not paid within a set period of time, it is followed by a courtesy letter asking you to pay the full amount plus an additional administration fee. Finally, an enforcement order will be issued if you have not responded to the courtesy letter.

The enforcement order is meant to be served by registered mail, and any demerit points you have incurred for the violation will be automatically allocated. You will be required to pay the full penalty, plus representation fees and the fee of the courtesy letter, if any, as well as the prescribed fee of the enforcement order within 32 days.

The AARTO Act does not include powers of arrest. Arrest warrants are issued by the courts. There is no legislation that authorises traffic officers to prevent motorists from proceeding with their journey if they are found to have outstanding traffic fines. If you are stopped in a roadside “courtesy check” or other roadblock, and your driver’s licence and vehicle licence are checked, the officer may not detain you if both licences are valid and up to date, even if you have unpaid speeding or parking fines.

Demerit points

It’s also interesting to note that not all speeding offences incur demerit points. Exceeding the speed limit by 11 km per hour to 15 km per hour incurs a fine of R250, but you will not receive any demerit points. If your speed is recorded at 16 km per hour to 20 km per hour over the speed limit the fine is R500 and one demerit point. The fine and number of points increase for each 5 km per hour you are travelling above the speed limit. If you are caught going more than 40 km per hour over the speed limit you will face a court appearance and six demerit points.

Don’t speed!

However, this is not an invitation to speed. Some drivers feel the relatively minor fine of R250 is worth paying to arrive at their destination faster. Please don’t do this. Speeding is one of the top three causes of death in road traffic accidents in South Africa. According to Arrive Alive, the severity of a crash increases with speed, and accident avoidance is more difficult at high speed. The likelihood of death at a collision speed of 80km/h is 20 times higher than at an impact speed of 32 km/h.

Stay safe out there. Obey speed limits. If you make a mistake and receive an infringement notice, pay up. But if, for whatever reason, you neglect to pay the fine within the stipulated time, you cannot be arrested for it.

If you need legal advice or assistance

If you have been stopped at a roadblock and you have reason to believe the conduct of the officers was not lawful, or if you have been unreasonably detained at a checkpoint, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email

Further reading:

Roadblocks, road safety, and December tips

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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.

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