eMalahleni is sporting an array of new speeding cameras along our major roads, and some of us are bound to get caught rushing off to an early meeting or speeding to school to pick up the kids.
Before considering how to quash a speeding fine, it is first important to understand the procedure and different types of speeding fines.
There are two different types of speeding fines which you may incur.
The first is known as a s341 notice – this is the type you will most likely receive if you get caught out by a speeding camera.
This type of fine will be posted to you after the offence has been committed and won’t contain a court date.
The second is called an s56 notice – these are handed to you personally by a traffic officer (usually after he or she has personally seen you commit the alleged offence) and do contain a court date.
Upon receipt of either one of these fines, you usually have 30 days (depending on the processing power of the municipality’s traffic department) to respond, either by paying the fine or by contesting it.
Should you not respond to the s341 or s56 notice at all, you may be issued a summons.
Should you wish to contest a fine stemming from either an s341 or s56 notice, you need to write an email, letter or fax to the traffic department in whose municipal area the fine was incurred.
This letter or fax needs to stipulate why you believe you should not have to pay the fine, and a copy of the s341 or s56 notice should be attached.
Remember to include the compounding notice number (it will be clearly indicated on the s341 notice received) in the letter itself to assist the traffic department in processing your query.
Upon receipt of the letter, the traffic department will hand over the request to a resident prosecutor, who will decide whether he wants to pursue the case and prosecute, or “throw out” the matter – effectively quashing your fine.
So how do you convince a prosecutor not to prosecute? Under what circumstances will a prosecutor quash or reduce a fine?
The first and most simplistic way, to quash a fine is if the fine stemmed from a s341 notice and it had not been issued within 30 days of the alleged offence. A s341 notice issued later than 30 days after the alleged offence is invalid, and thus so is the fine.
Furthermore the Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures for Traffic Control and Traffic Control Equipment Guidelines (the TCSP guidelines) sets out operator, laboratory and speed measuring equipment standards that must be met.
If these standards are not met – the fine is illegal, and is thus not payable. Some of these required standards include:
o The operator (traffic officer) must be in possession of an operator’s certificate for the specific type of Speed Measuring Equipment (SME).
If the operator is not in possession of such, the fine is illegal and thus not payable.
o An accredited laboratory must calibrate or verify all speed measuring equipment, time or time interval measuring equipment and any equipment after repairs to components that affect the speed measuring capability of the SME were done.
These labs must issue a new calibration certificate for each fixed or unfixed speeding camera every 12 months – if the 12 month period has passed and no new calibration certificate has been issued, the fine can certainly be contested on these grounds alone.
o A Land Surveyor, registered with the South African Council for Professional and Technical Land Surveyors, an accredited laboratory or suitable qualified person must validate all distance checking markers for validation of SME’s where applicable. Where this has not been the case – the fine can be contested on these grounds.
o A speeding fine may not be issued by a fixed or unfixed speeding camera with a speed measurement that was taken within 300 metres of the commencement of the speed limit zone.
o Fixed cameras operating through automation shall be checked for correct operation, correct camera alignment and damage at least every seven days.
These results shall be recorded. Should the camera not be checked, and the results not be available to you, the fine can be contested on these grounds.
o If two vehicles are in the image indicated on the s341 notice, but they are in different lanes, the SME which caught the image must have sensor lines which are lane specific, and not general.
If the measurement area and sensor lines are general, it may be possible to quash the fine by arguing that it is impossible to know which of the two vehicles in the image were speeding.
By familiarising yourself with the TCSP guidelines and the Criminal Procedure Act, you may be better able to reduce the amount you are spending annually on traffic violations.
It is important to note that once summons have been served for a traffic violation, that it is critical to respond.
Failure to comply with summons served on you may result in you being held in contempt of court.
It is also crucial to note that upon receiving summons (either from an s56 notice, or because you received an s341 notice and did not respond), you will be offered the opportunity to pay an admission of guilt – which will free you from the obligation of having to go to court.
You need to be aware that if you do sign this admission of guilt and pay the correlating monetary amount, you will receive a criminal record.