According to reports as of 22 May 2020 roughly 230 000 South Africans were charged with contravening the national lockdown regulations, and between 26 March and 17 May 2020 roughly 8 659 people in Gauteng have been convicted or admitted guilt through payment of fines for contravention of the lockdown regulations. Some of the offences for which transgressors were able to pay fines, instead of facing imprisonment, included:
- buying of nonessential goods,
- illegal evictions of persons as all evictions are prohibited during lockdown,
- publishing statements to deceive another person about Covid19,
- convening gatherings of persons against regulations limits,
- obstructing enforcement officers in the execution of their duties under the Disaster
Management Act Regulations, and
- exercising outside of the permitted exercise hours, under level 4; and
- travelling to work without a permit.
If you have been arrested for contravention of lockdown regulations, or if you have contravened any other law which allows for the option of an admission of guilt fine it is important to bear in mind the consequences of accepting the admission of guilt fine, and consider the following questions before proceeding:
What is an Admission of Guilt Fine? :
A person who is arrested for a less serious offence may be given the option by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to pay the admission of guilt fine and be released from police custody without a court appearance.
What are your rights when being arrested and offered to pay and admission of guilt fine?:
SAPS has a duty to inform you of the reasons for your arrest, that you have the choice to see a lawyer, and should you be offered the option of an admission of guilt fine the SAPS officer is required to inform you of what an admission of guilt fine is and what the consequences of accepting and paying such a fine will be.
What are the consequences of accepting and paying an admission of guilt fine?:
When an arrested person accepts and pays an admission of guilt fine at the police station the person is then admitting / acknowledging his guilt for the crime as if the arrested person had pleaded guilty before a court. The acceptance and payment of an admission of guilt fine will result in a person will have a criminal record for the crime, with the exception of minor offences under the Road Traffic Act such as payment of a speeding fine.
Things to keep in mind with regards to admission of guilt fines :
This option should not be used as a quick method to avoid having to appear in court. An admission of guilt fine is not the same as bail therefore is it always important to consider the consequences of an admission of guilt fine and consult with legal representation before accepting and paying an admission of guilt fine.