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  • In South Africa the alcohol limit at present is as follows:
    • An alcohol content in the breath not exceeding 0,24 mg per 1000 ml or
    • An alcohol content in the blood not exceeding 0,05 g per 100 ml.
    • For professional drivers, e.g. taxi drivers, bus drivers and truck drivers, it is 0,02 g per 100 ml blood.

    Any person who exceeds the above limits during a breathalyser or blood test for alcohol at a road block can be arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of liquor. You are not entitled to refuse to take the test. If you refuse to take the test, you are committing a crime and the same punishment can be meted out to you as to someone driving with a blood alcohol level exceeding the prescribed limit.

    The police officer is legally obliged to take the arrested person to a registered medical practitioner if blood tests have to be taken. The police officer may exercise the necessary violence that will force the person to provide a blood sample.

    A breathalyser test or blood test for alcohol must be taken and have an incriminating outcome before a lawful arrest can be made. In terms of a recent finding in the Court of Appeal the police cannot lawfully arrest a motorist in the absence of such a test result. An arrest may not be made if the officer’s suspicion is based only on “the mere fact that he smells a bit of alcohol”.

    When prosecuting the crime of driving with the blood alcohol level exceeding the prescribed limit, it must be proven that the concentration of alcohol in any blood sample of any part of the body of the person concerned exceeded 0,05 g per 100 ml at any time within two hours after the alleged offence was committed.

    On prosecuting the crime of driving with the alcohol level of the blood exceeding the prescribed limit, it must be proven that the concentration of alcohol in any breath sample of the person concerned exceeded 0,24 mg per 1 000 ml at any time within two hours after the alleged offence was committed.

    i) What are my rights if I am arrested for drunken driving?

    1. To be treated with respect and dignity;
    2. to know who is the medical practitioner;
    3. to know what to expect during the examination – the process must be discussed with you;
    4. the right to access my own medical practitioner, if he or she is available. I must bear these expenses myself;
    5. the right to be examined in a place that is designed and equipped for this purpose – not a police cell, charge office or poorly equipped spot.
    6. The physical welfare of the person is given priority. No blood or breathalyser sampling procedure may result in delaying urgent medical treatment for a life-threatening condition.
    7. Persons who are severely under the influence of liquor must be referred to the hospital for observation.
    8. Persons who are being detained and who are to a lesser extent under the influence of liquor must be observed every 15 minutes by an experienced police officer until they are sober.
    9. Persons have the right to access their usual routine medication.
    10. Every person has the right to be referred for rehabilitation, should it be an obvious case of alcoholism. A recommendation in writing should be made in this for the magistrate’s information.
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