What are your rights at police road blocks?

If you get pulled over by a policeman or at a road block this Easter can you refuse to take a breathalyser or blood test? What are your rights if you get stopped? Can the police seize any items in your possession? Angelique Ruzicka asks Wits associate professor Stephen Tuson about what your rights are.


1. Are police allowed to search you or your vehicle if they ask you to pull over or if you are in a road block?

The law requires a police officer to search you only with a valid search warrant; however, there are some exceptions. The police may search you without a search warrant if you 1. Consent to the search, or  2. If they would have gotten a warrant had they asked for it, and the delay in getting the warrant would defeat the object of the search. In other words, if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of illegal articles etc and the matter is urgent they can search you without a warrant. Road blocks properly authorised they do not need warrants.


2. If they ask you to take a breathalyser test are you allowed to refuse it?

Not really. If you refuse they will arrest you and take you for a blood test.


3. If they ask you to do a blood test are you allowed to refuse to do it?

No. Section 37 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows them to take samples as evidence, and you may not refuse.


4. Can they confiscate any items and, if so, for what reasons?

Police may search for (see above) and then seize items which are illegal, such as items used in the commission of an offence; items which are evidence of the commission of an offence; and items which are to be used in the commission of an offence. Confiscate is the wrong word. Rather use the word ‘seize’. Confiscate means permanent retention and disposal by the police, usually of illegal articles like stolen property or drugs etc.


5. Can drivers be arrested for being rude to officers? 

This is a matter of degree. They can only be arrested for the commission of an offence, committed in the presence of the police. Rudeness might constitute interfering with an officer in the execution of his duties.


6. Can the police officers refuse to let you carry on driving?

Yes, if you are intoxicated, or are under arrest.


7. If you get threatened or asked for a bribe what can you do?

Depends what the threat is. Threat of lawful arrest is OK.  Do not pay a bribe as this is an offence; take the name of the police officer and make a criminal complaint to your nearest police station.

Check out our road safety tips for more information on how to stay safe this Easter. For more about how to ensure that you don’t become a holiday break-in statistic this Easter, click here.