Fined for breaking lockdown rules? You may now have a criminal record
As of last month, nearly 23,000 people had paid admission of guilt fines for breaking the regulations put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
CAPE TOWN - Since the inception of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations back in March, thousands of South Africans have been fined for not adhering to the regulations.
As of last month, nearly 23,000 people have paid admission of guilt fines for breaking the regulations that have been put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
But paying it is not necessarily in your best interests, according to the Justice Project of South Africa.
Howard Dembovsky of the Justice Project SA explained that in terms of the Disaster Management Act, the minister's allowed to prescribe penalties and offences in terms of the regulations.
That means that breaking lockdown can land you with a criminal record even if all you did was walk around the block when you shouldn't have.
When police pull you up on a relatively minor offence, you aren't always required to be processed and appear in court.
“Police can issue a notice to appear in court, and that notice contains an admission of guilt fine which you can pay in order to avoid appearing in court.”
And while paying an admission of guilt fine for breaking lockdown regulations might seem like an easy way out, it's not that simple.
It all depends on whether you are formally arrested or not.
“If you have been arrested, you are considered to have been convicted by that court. If you pay an admission of guilt fine, the South African Police Service takes fingerprints upon the arrest and that enables them to register a criminal record against you.”
If you're not formally arrested and you opt to pay the admission of guilt fine, police simply issue you with a receipt and no criminal record is registered.
Dembovsky said very few people knew this and it's quite possible that when the lockdown was over, there would be thousands of South Africans with criminal records that would make their lives very hard.
And once the record is there, you have to wait 10 years before you can apply to have it expunged.