After years of problems with the legal execution of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO), the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) says that they still receive frequent reports that the problems are not yet resolved, according to adv. Anton Alberts, national chairperson for the FF Plus.
According to adv. Alberts, it often happens that AARTO, which is simply an administrative process, is abused by traffic authorities to illegally prosecute road users.
He says that the FF Plus would like to offer motorists legal advice concerning the various forms of legislation when it comes to traffic offences in Gauteng:
The National Road Traffic Act criminalises traffic offences by means of fines and even arrest. This Act makes use of the Law of criminal procedure to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and it also makes provision for withholding motor vehicle licences if fines are not paid.
The prospect is that AARTO will supplement the National Road Traffic Act and it is currently being tested in the Johannesburg and Pretoria region with the aim of ultimately implementing it nationwide. The idea is that it will replace much of the criminal procedures of the National Road Traffic Act.
AARTO’s aim is to decriminalise road traffic offences and to adjudicate them on an administrative basis. That means that the law will not be enforced by considering traffic offences as criminal offences, but rather as administrative offences and then the offender will be issued a fine. The following penalties can also be imposed on offenders:
For every offence, the driver is given demerit points and when a certain limit is reached, the person’s driver’s license may be revoked. This process is currently not yet in effect. It will only come into effect when AARTO has been implemented nationwide.
Motor vehicle licenses may be withheld until all traffic fines are paid, but only after an administrative process was followed, which is currently not properly utilised.
The authorities may take possession of an offender’s assets, like his/her house or car, which may then be sold in a judicial sale to pay off all the fines.
Another big problem is that AARTO has strict prescriptions for deadlines when issuing fines as well as for the time in which the administrative processes need to be completed. The authorities, however, don’t even keep to these deadlines themselves and as a result many of the fines are invalid, as confirmed by the Fines4U judgment. In effect, what happens is that the fines stay registered on the eNaTIS system and are not taken down, despite the fact that they may not appear there. Consequently, people are held liable for fines for which they are legally not accountable. In a written response to a question by the FF Plus, the Minister admitted that the fines should be removed but that this does not happen.
It is very important to keep the following AARTO rules, which protect you as road user, in mind:
No one may be arrested for outstanding AARTO fines.
No one may be stopped at a road block for outstanding AARTO fines and you may definitely not be forced to pay the fine(s) right there and then.
AARTO fines must be delivered to the offender in person or be sent via registered mail, otherwise the fine is legally ineffectual.
An offender is entitled to dispute an AARTO fine at the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RITA) and then at an AARTO court thereafter. Currently, there are no AARTO courts and so the process cannot be completed. This means that should you refer your AARTO fine to a court, the fine will not be adjudicated and will eventually become invalid because you have the right to a speedy trial.
According to adv. Alberts, most AARTO fines are therefore illegal due to a lack of proper processes.
He adds that the FF Plus n Gauteng has entered into a cooperative agreement with experts in the field, namely Fines4U, who won a watershed case against AARTO in the Northern Gauteng High Court earlier this year. In terms of which AARTO had to write off illegal fines amounting to millions of rands.
The executive officer of Fines4U, mrs. Cornelia van Niekerk, says that one of the biggest problems is that people are unaware of fines. She is currently assisting a car guard who wanted to renew his motor vehicle licence. The licence was withheld and he was told that he has outstanding fines amounting to R1 900 – he earns about R1 600 per month at the moment.
He was given the opportunity to work as a courier driver, but this wonderful opportunity may now possibly be lost.
A journalist from a well-known newspaper, who phoned mrs. Van Niekerk to write an article about the above-mentioned case, was astonished when she informed him that she had looked up his name and that he also had outstanding fines. She says that it is therefore very important that people make sure that they don’t have any outstanding fines.