Traffic fines are a lucrative income stream for traffic departments and municipalities. Unfortunately, this form of revenue collection is prone to error that leaves consumers out in the cold. So, if you suspect you’ve been wrongfully accused – here’s my handy guide to disputing traffic fines.
The normal speeding fine notice that arrives in the post is called an S341. This is not important but these are the normal fines for speeding from a fixed camera or for an expired license disk. These notices do not have a court date specified on the fine but are seen as the last warning before a summons is issued against you.
How soon do you have to dispute the fine?
You have 30 days to approach the traffic department where the fine was issued to pay the fine. After the 30 days, a summons could be issued, which means you will have to go to court to state your case. This, however, varies from municipality to municipality.
If a notice is not issued within 30 days of the date of the fine, then the notice is invalid and this could be argued in court. Then you are really off the hook.
If you wish to challenge the fine before a summons is issued, you need to send a letter or email to the issuing traffic department that includes the fine and the reasons why you feel you shouldn’t pay the fine.
A blog reader approached me with a fine he had received recently. He was concerned as the fine was for his registration number, however, the registration in the fine was hardly legible. Furthermore, the vehicle pictured was not his at all. The registration number associated with him belongs to his trailer. To make matters worse – the fine was issued in the Empangeni area and linked to the Umhlathuze Municipality but he lives in Durban and never goes to Empangeni.
How to dispute a traffic fine
Here are the steps according to the Criminal Procedure Act. Criminal? Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? Anyway, here goes:
- Write an email to the traffic department. The traffic department referred us to the municipality who referred us to TMT Services & Supplies. This happens to be a Kapsch Group company, the same European company who runs the e-tolls contract.
- Attach a copy of the fine notice to your email.
- As a safeguard, to establish a paper trail, you can also post your letter to them. You are not required to use registered mail if you post it. I would email and post it just to be safe.
- The relevant department may respond to you in writing but this never happens.
- If successful, the fine will either be cancelled or reduced.
- There is a very good chance that the fine will be reduced as they rely on this income. In this case, the fine was scrapped.
- If your dispute is rejected, you will need to wait for the summons to arrive.
- If you comply and pay the fine as an admission of guilt, you will not receive a criminal record.