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City motorists may be in for a fine reprieve

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Following a nationwide instruction all outstanding traffic fines issued in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act older than 18 months should be cancelled if no summons has been issued

WRITTEN OFF: As a result of a national directive, some outstanding traffic fines may be cancelled if no summons was issued.

CITY motorists with outstanding fines could be in for a reprieve following reports that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has issued a countrywide instruction that all outstanding traffic fines issued in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act older than 18 months should be cancelled if no summons has been issued.

NPA spokesperson in the Northern Cape, Phaladi Shuping, said that as this was a national directive, he was not in a position to comment. Comment was also not available from the national office.

According to a national report, the NPA also directed that if a summons was issued and motorists failed to show up for court – resulting in a warrant for their arrest being issued – the warrant will also only be valid for two years after the date of issue.

If it has not been executed within two years it should also be cancelled, the directive reportedly states.

The prosecutor can, however, decide to revive the prosecution in the case of serial offenders.

“The instruction will apply countrywide to individuals and proxies representing companies. It, however, excludes fines issued in terms of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, which applies in Johannesburg and Tshwane,” the report stated.

Kimberley Traffic Chief, Chris Langford, explained yesterday that motorists needed to understand the process in terms of the issuing of fines.

“A Section 341 notice is sent to a motorist by post for violations caught on traffic camera or for traffic tickets issued in absence of the motorists (for example, for an expired licence disk). The fine does not have a court date on it but is considered a first notice before a summons is issued. The Traffic Department will issue a second notice before actually issuing the summons. After the second notice, motorists have about another 30 days to pay (or to contest the fine in writing) before a summons is issued and the case goes to court,” Langford stated.

A summons must be delivered in person via registered mail or by a peace officer. According to the NPA’s directive, the summons must be issued within 18 months of the offence.

“Failure to appear in court will see a warrant of arrest automatically being issued by the court. If the warrant is not executed in 18 months, for example if the offender cannot be traced, then the warrant is returned to court for their processes,” Langford added.

A Section 56 notice (the old “spot fine”) is given to motorists by a traffic officer, usually for a moving violation. It has a court date on it. “No reminder is sent out for this notice. Motorists have about 30 days to pay before their case is referred to court.

“People who do not pay the fine and do not appear in court are issued with a warrant of arrest. In this instance, the warrant of arrest is valid for two years, and if it is not executed it is again returned to the courts.”

The NPA’s reported instruction to prosecutors is that this warrant must be cancelled if it has not been executed in two years, although in the case of repeat offenders the prosecutor can decide to continue with the prosecution.

According to Langford, on average around 10 percent of warrants issued for fines in Kimberley are returned to the courts after two years because they could not be delivered.

“Out of around 1 800 fines issued a month, about 200 warrants are returned to court after two years because the person involved could not be traced.”