Roadblocks are one of any driver’s worst nightmares, you see the blue lights while driving home from a night out and a bit of panic sets in, it’s only natural. While you’ve done your best to be a responsible driver, you worry if that one beer or glass of wine may have just pushed you over the legal limit?

Anyone at a roadblock has basic rights, so, here’s what you need to know about roadblocks:

The always brilliant people at Carte Blanche did all the necessary research for this, so you can trust that it’s coming from one of SA’s most reliable sources.

There are two kinds of roadblocks in South Africa

The biggest difference between these two is “the police’s ability and right to search your vehicle and person”.

  • Informal roadblocks: these roadblocks usually pop up on major roads and off-ramps. Their primary goal is to curb drunken driving, speeding or unroadworthy vehicles. They also usually check for outstanding fines. A search cannot be performed without a warrant unless the officer can prove extraordinary circumstances.
  • K78 roadblocks: these roadblocks are approved by the National Police Commissioner. Police officers are allowed to search your vehicle and your person without a warrant. These roadblocks are usually set up to find a specific criminal or vehicle already on their radar.

For both these types, you are allowed to request that offices provide you with a warrant or authorisation from the National Police Commissioner if they request to search your vehicle or even you personally. If they can’t provide the necessary documents, you can legally prevent them from carrying out the search.

The reasons cops are allowed to pull you over

A police officer must be in full uniform when working at a roadblock. Officers are allowed to pull you over for any of the following reasons.

  • To complete a routine check of the vehicle and the driver. Depending on the type of roadblock, they may request a full search.
  • The driver committed a traffic offence like failing to stop at a stop street or speeding.
  • The vehicle is suspected to be stolen or the vehicle is believed to contain criminal individuals or contraband.

What the cops can do at both types of roadblocks

Informal Roadblock

The officer is legally allowed to do the following:

  • Request your driver’s licence and ID.
  • Check for outstanding fines.
  • Check the vehicle’s licence disk and ensure the car is roadworthy.
  • If the officer requests to search the car, he/she must provide you with a copy of an official warrant stating the reason for the search. **

** Should an officer have reasonable grounds to perform a search without a warrant, and he/she can prove this in the court of law at a later stage, he/she may perform a search. A search can also be performed should the officer believe any delays would hamper a possible criminal investigation

Should the officer suspect the driver is driving under the influence, the following steps may be taken:

  • The driver may be requested to exit the vehicle.
  • A breathalyser test may be requested. Should the driver refuse, the police can legally detain the driver and have blood tests done at the nearest police station.

K78 roadblock

The police can do the following by law:

  • Search any vehicle or person without a warrant.
  • Seize items from the vehicle or person should these be illegal or suspected to be linked to a crime.
  • Should a police officer request to perform a body search, it is illegal for an officer of the opposite sex to search you.

A motorist can do the following by law:

  • Members of the public are at liberty to ask for a copy of the written authorisation letter given by the National Police Commissioner. The authorisation letter must provide the following information to make it valid:
    • The date of the authorised roadblock
    • The duration of the roadblock
    • The purpose of the roadblock

Other big questions?

So when can an officer arrest you, with or without a warrant?

  • You are found to be driving under the influence.
  • You have been driving recklessly, carelessly or dangerously.
  • You are willfully obstructing the roadway.
  • You are found to be driving with a cancelled or disqualified licence.
  • Police suspect you may have committed or are about to commit a crime.
  • You verbally or physically abuse an officer. Any racial slurs, threats, crude gestures or physical contact could result in arrest. Also preventing an officer from doing their job is a criminal offence.

Filming the police during a roadblock is also perfectly legal, it’s illegal for officers to confiscate or damage your recording equipment or even force you to remove images you may have taken.

It’s a lot to take in but the information above is important for every driver in South Africa to remember.