The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has issued a countrywide instruction that all outstanding traffic fines issued in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act should be cancelled after 18 months if no summons has been issued.
The instruction will apply countrywide to individuals and proxies representing companies. It however excludes fines issued in terms of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, which applies in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
If a summons has been issued and the alleged transgressor fails to appear in court resulting in a warrant of arrest, the warrant has a lifetime of two years from the date of issue. If it has not been executed within two years, it should also be cancelled.
The prosecutor will however retain discretion to revive the prosecution in the case of serial offenders, according to the instruction.
Outstanding and historic traffic fines are a huge risk for especially fleet owners, says Cornelia van Niekerk, owner of Fines4U a company that administers traffic fines on behalf of 500 companies and 8 000 individuals.
She showed Moneyweb schedules of outstanding fines issued by different issuing authorities against some of her clients. One client has 81 outstanding fines, totalling R42 500. Nineteen of these fines are from 2015 or earlier, some dating back to 2005.
A related company has 84 outstanding fines from the same issuing authority totalling R34 300, four of which are older than two years, the oldest dating back to 2009. No summonses have been issued in respect of these fines.
Van Niekerk says issuing authorities and service providers acting on their behalf continue to try to collect on the historic fines despite policies providing for the cancellation of older fines.
This includes stopping drivers in road blocks for outstanding historic fines and preventing them from driving further. Van Niekerk says this could leave the driver’s freight stranded, costing a company thousands if not millions of rands.
Attorney Anton Burger from Burger Attorneys, says the instruction the NPA issued on August 17 will standardise the approach to historic fines countrywide. He says while some jurisdictions doing exactly what the NPA now directs, he has also recently seen a summons being issued for an infringement that occurred five years ago in 2012.
In its letter to all directors of public prosecution about the new instruction the NPA says the measures are aimed at avoiding backlogs and ensuring adherence to the Constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Burger says the 18-month and two-year time limits in terms of the instruction are still too long to ensure a speedy trial. He says in criminal trials attorneys will start raising objections to further postponements on that basis after the second or third court appearance, which might be within a month or two from the date of the alleged offence.
The NPA did not respond to questions sent by Moneyweb about the issue.