There is a general, mistaken belief that paying a traffic fine is merely a formality and that its effect goes no further than the financial loss incurred.
As a result, people elect to pay the fine merely to avoid the nuisance of attending court to dispute the fine. The question arises whether the blind payment of these fines could lead to the payee acquiring a criminal record?
In cetain cases this could indeed be the danger.
The Criminal Procedure Act
When dealing with traffic laws and the fines associated therewith, the starting point is to look at the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (The Act) which Act differentiates between two main types of fines in relation to traffic offences.
The most common type of fine is in terms of Section 341 of the Act which are fines issued by peace officers in relation to minor offences, which offences are set out in Schedule 3 of the Act. These include the driving at excessive speed, illegal parking and driving a vehicle without a licence.
The Act makes it clear that should the person issued with such a fine make payment in accordance therewith, such person shall not be prosecuted for having committed such offence.
Payment of a fine in accordance with this section will accordingly not result in the payee acquiring a criminal record.
Payment of a Section 57 traffic fine
However, should an offence not fall within the ambit of Schedule 3, a peace officer may issue an accused with a written notice to appear at court in accordance with Section 56 of the Act.
Typically, this notice may also include an endorsement in terms of section 57 stating that the accused may admit his guilt in respect of the offence in question and that he may pay a stipulated fine in respect thereof without appearing in court.
This fine is however NOT the same as a Section 341 fine. Upon payment of a Section 57 fine, the accused will be deemed to have been convicted and sentenced by the court.
The details of the offence shall also be entered in the criminal record book for admissions of guilt.
It is important to note that section 341 and 57 fines may appear very similar and it is extremely important to differentiate between the two before considering payment, as the results could be detrimental.
It must be added that a person can only acquire a criminal record, if his/her fingerprints are taken, which usually would not happen when paying a section 57 fine.
This does however not preclude the possibility, and a person issued with such a fine needs to be wary.
Bester & Lauwrens Attorneys - Criminal Law Attorneys
Considering the above, it is advisable to consult your attorney to acquire assistance in relation to any such matter.
Make sure that you know the consequences of paying a fine and that you are satisfied therewith to avoid any unexpected surprises.