Drunken Driving - Charges May Be Withdrawn Or Taken From The Roll For This | Legal Articles


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Drunken Driving - Charges May Be Withdrawn Or Taken From The Roll For This

It is during the festive season and holidays where law enforcement agencies are most visible on the roads. This is obviously because a lot of people are on the roads traveling to various holiday destinations.

The duty of law enforcement agencies is to ensure that road safety is maximized, road accidents and carnage are reduced, and responsibility on the roads is being exercised.

Where a public road user such as one driving a vehicle, is alleged to be drunk, the duty of law enforcement is to prevent such driver from using the road and vehicle any further at that particular moment as it endangers lives.

They then conduct tests to determine if the drunkenness is over the limit by way of a breathalyser and if necessary, blood samples may be withdrawn which will be sent to a laboratory for further tests. Where it is found that the alcohol content in the blood sample is over 0.05g/100ml, then the driver is arraigned for prosecution before the Courts.

Drunken driving charges South Africa

Drunken Driving Charges

While we discourage drunken driving and encourage responsibility on the roads, it still remains the onus of the State and law enforcement to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt against an accused. That involves adhering to procedures set out in dealing with drunken driving cases. Where this falls short, there lies a risk that the charges may have to be withdrawn and the offender walks away free without reprimand.

Below, we will outline factors where, charges against the accused in a drunken driving case may have to be withdrawn as securing a conviction may not be in the likely prospects, or where the matter is taken off the roll. 

Principles and Requirements Chain Evidence

Firstly, drunken driving cases are vastly hinged on the principles and requirements of chain evidence. This means that from the time the alleged offender is identified, the blood sample taken and sent to the laboratory for tests, the sequence must form a chain whereat there has to be no doubt that the sample belongs to the alleged offender.

In the event that this chain is broken, it may be very difficult to link and authenticate that the blood sample indeed belongs to and was withdrawn from the alleged offender. This may happen where serial or reference numbers do not correlate, the dates in which the samples were handed over and received from one stage in the chain to the other are inconsistent, or where the identity numbers of the alleged offender do not tally/match. In this instance, the practice is that the charges against the alleged accused ought to be withdrawn.

Medical attendants need to testify

Secondly, normally the medical attendant who withdrew the blood sample or other expert in the stages of the chain may be required to come and testify during the trial if the accused chooses to defend the case. In practice often at times the nurses get too busy and are consistently unable to come and testify, thereby crippling the case of the state. In such instances too, the state may have no choice but to withdraw the charges ultimately.

Blood samples may take too long

Thirdly, sometimes the results of the blood samples take too long (sometimes up to 6 months) to be available. Upon the request of the accused, the State/prosecution may remove the matter from the roll in the event that the results are still not ready after so many postponements. In practice, the State/prosecution usually removes the matter from the roll until when the blood sample results are ready, can the State proceed by way of summons.

Civil Claim against the State

The burden of proof in criminal litigation (beyond reasonable doubt) is higher than in civil cases (balance of probabilities) and so where the above happens, the state will most likely be dissuaded to continue with the case and would rather withdraw charges or remove it from the Court roll. This is also premised on the fear that the alleged offender may instruct a legal practitioner to pursue a civil claim against the state for malicious prosecution where charges ought to have been dropped as there were glaring chances of acquittal.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Inc. - Criminal Attorneys South Africa

It is advisable to seek legal assistance at any point after law enforcement has decided to process the driver for drunken driving charges. This is because even though we encourage drivers not to engage in drunken driving, the onus still remains on law enforcement and the state to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. We assist parties in criminal matters and a host of other services as espoused on our website and social media pages. Kindly like, follow and engage with us on these platforms for comprehensive assistance.

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The information and material published on this website is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We make every effort to ensure that the content is updated regularly and to offer the most current and accurate information. Please consult one of our lawyers on any specific legal problem or matter. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, whether direct or consequential, which may arise from reliance on the information contained in these pages.

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