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Arrested for Drinking and Driving: What to Expect


You have left a restaurant after having dinner with a friend. You are turning a corner after a traffic light turns green, you are a stones throw away from your house when you are met with a flashing torch light and a police officer waving you off the road. An immediate sense of panic sets in when you realise you have had a glass of wine with your dinner, or maybe it was two. This article goes over what you can expect to happen when you have been pulled over by the police and you are facing the possibility of being arrested for drinking and driving. The immediate procession of events from when you wind down your window will vary from scenario to scenario. As we are all aware, there is a great deal of corruption in South Africa and so it is hard to say what you will be met with. It is important to always remember that even if a police officer suggests a bribe and you then agree, it is still bribery, regardless of who suggested it. Bribery is crime. After checking some basic boxes, such as the validity of your driver’s license, if it is suspected that you have been drinking alcohol, you will be asked to take a breathaliser test. Obviously we are not concerned here if you pass the test, it is what happens if you fail the test, even slightly. Presuming you have failed the breathaliser test, you will then be arrested. You are now officially being detained by the police and you will most likely find yourself in the back of a police van, possibly with other detainees. You would have been required to hand over your car keys and your car will be impounded, presuming there was no one else in the vehicle that is sober. You will then be taken for blood testing. This process will normally take a few hours and can sometimes take place at a police station and other times somewhere offsite, it all depends on the area in which you were arrested. Some think that refusing to give blood is a good idea, but in fact it isn’t. Refusing to give blood gives rise to a presumption that you are indeed intoxicated, otherwise why would one refuse to cooperate. Once the blood testing has been completed, you will be moved into a holding cell, again you will most likely find yourself in the company of other detainees of various offenses. It is possible that you may still have your cell phone (you shouldn’t) alternatively you would have been able to notify someone shortly before your cell phone was taken away during processing (i.e. before being placed in the holding cell). There is no way to dress up a holding cell unfortunately, it is probably as bad as you would expect it to be, if not worse. The length of time that you will spend in the holding cell will depend from case to case. In most instances, if you are arrested at night, you can reasonably expect to be released on bail the following morning, circumstances dependent.

When released, you will be required to pay an amount for bail and so the person that you asked to come and get you should bring bail money with. You will also be issued with a Court date when you are required to appear at Court. You will remain on bail until your first Court appearance and the Court process will then commence, which is basically what you have seen on T.V, except that it is nothing like that at all. On a closing note, it is important to bear in mind that the Courts make provision for first time offenders to do things like community service as opposed to being convicted of the crime of drinking and driving. This is called diversion and if you successfully achieve diversion, you will not have a criminal record to show for your transgression, bearing in mind that this chance will most likely not be available to you again. There is no guarantee that you will qualify for diversion and it is tested on a case by case basis. This article does not go into any legalities regarding the arrest process as well the Court process. It is a guideline of what you can expect in the hours following an arrest for drinking and driving. For legal advice, please make an appointment with our offices.

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