Traffic fines can be given for any number of reasons. Perhaps you were driving a little too fast, or maybe your tax disc is expired. Whatever the reason, traffic fines can quickly escalate and become serious charges if you don’t deal with them quickly. The good news is that the process for dealing with a traffic fine is fairly simple, and you always have the opportunity to contest tickets if you don’t think that they are deserved. We’re taking a look at traffic fines and how to contest them below.
The Types of Traffic Fines
In South Africa there are two kinds of traffic fines. If a policeman stops you on the road and hands you a ticket in person this is called a Section 56 Notice. This will have a court date already printed on it, and you will be expected to show up at the given court on that date. The other option is called a Section 341 Notice, and this will be sent to you by mail. Maybe you were caught on a traffic camera and need to pay speeding fines, or maybe the policeman noticed your expired tax disc and left the ticket on your car. This kind of ticket has no court date, if you ignore it another ticket will be issued, and if you ignore the second ticket then you will get a court date.
Where to Pay Traffic Fines
Maybe you feel that these fines are deserved, in which case all you need to do is pay them! In South Africa each municipality controls its own traffic procedures. If you wish to pay your fine then you can send cheques or postal orders in the mail, can pay cash in person at the appropriate office, or in some cases some municipalities allow you to view traffic fines online and pay them that way. The only way for you to know this is to go to the website for the municipality that gave you the ticket (you should be able to find the name of the municipality on the ticket itself and possibly the website address too, if not Google should help!).
How Long Do You Have to Pay?
If you got a Section 56 Notice then you’ll have around a month before the court date on your ticket, and you can pay your speeding fines or other traffic fines any time before this date. If you got a Section 341 Notice you will have around a month before a second notice is issued, and then another month before a court summons is issued, and a further month before your court date. That gives you a total of around three months in which you can pay your traffic fines.
What If I Don’t Pay My Traffic Fines?
The consequences of outstanding traffic fines are quite serious. If you don’t pay your traffic fines, don’t contest them, and don’t show up to the court date given to you then a warrant for your arrest will automatically be issued. It is obviously important that you deal with traffic fines as soon as possible to avoid an arrest warrant. And don’t forget that outstanding traffic incidents may also have an effect on things like your insurance rates, and your ability to renew the tax disc for your vehicle.
How to Contest Traffic Fines
If you don’t want to pay your traffic fines and don’t want to get arrested then there is an alternative. If you feel that the ticket you got was unfair then you can contest your ticket, which simply means that you present an argument for why it is unfair. This is very simple.
You must write a letter explaining yourself and send it to the municipal traffic department (again, the address should be on your ticket). Make sure that you include a copy of the ticket and an explanation for why you should not pay it. The municipal traffic department will send you a reply by mail.
If you are not happy with the reply that you get, you may again contest your traffic fines. Once you have received your summons (the letter that officially tells you to go to court) then once again write to the municipal traffic department with your explanation and a copy of your ticket. Your letter will be given to the prosecutor and he will decide whether he wishes to take your case to court or not. If the prosecutor decides to go ahead then you will need to appear in court on the appointed date, where you will have the chance to contest your traffic fines in person.
5 Golden Tips for Contesting Your Traffic Fines
If you’re looking to make an argument about why you shouldn’t have to pay your traffic fines, then here are some tips to help you out:
Tip One- Check Signage: check out the road signs applicable to your situation. Are they clear? Can you see them from where you parked or where you were driving? Is the language clearly understandable?;
Tip Two- Check Your Ticket: read your ticket carefully and make sure that all the information is correct, in some cases you might be able to get the ticket waived if it has not been filled out correctly by the authorities, this is particularly true for tickets given to you on the spot;
Tip Three- Gather Evidence: depending on your situation you might be able to get evidence to support your argument, this can be pictures of road signs, recordings from dash cams, or even statements from witnesses. Every little bit helps (and wherever possible send a copy of your evidence along with your letter);
Tip Four- Was it a Necessary Mistake?: in some cases you can get away with breaking the law (!) as long as you can prove that you were making a necessary mistake, that is you knew you were breaking the law but you had to do so in order to prevent damage or injury. For example, if your ticket is for stopping on a section of highway where no stopping is allowed, you could argue that your car was overheating or you had engine problems. In these cases you are admitting that you DID break the law (which could be a problem if you later decide to go to court over the ticket) but that you HAD to break it, so do be careful!;
Tip Five- Cut Your Losses: sometimes it’s simply better that you pay the fine, whether you think you deserve it or not. Getting involved in a legal process can be lengthy and expensive, and a traffic ticket for a minor incident (speeding only a few kilometres over the limit, for example) is unlikely to cost much and won’t have much of an effect on your car insurance or anything else. It may be worth just paying the ticket and avoiding the trouble…
Traffic Fines: The Bottom Line
Most of us will receive a traffic ticket at some point in our driving history. Dealt with quickly these shouldn’t be a big problem (though if you continually get tickets then you may eventually have your license taken away, or be forced to attend traffic school to learn how to drive more safely). Whether you want to pay your traffic fines, or to contest them, it’s important that you act quickly. Getting a traffic fine isn’t the end of the world, as long as you don’t let it spiral out of control!
Main Subject: traffic fines
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