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What is the procedure if I plead guilty to a charge of reckless or negligent driving?
02 June 2020  | Puleng Valentine Tladi

The accused will instruct his or her legal representative , who will confirm that he or she is acting on behalf of the accused and that his or her instructions are in accordance with section 112(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977.

The chargesheet will read as follows “That the accused is guilty of the offence of contravening the provisions of section 63(1) read with sections 1, 63(2), 63(3), 69, 73 and 89(1) and 89(5) of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996”

“In that upon or about (Date) and at or near a (Street Name) a public road in the district of (Name of Town), the accused did wrongfully drive a vehicle , to wit(Name of Vehicle) with registration numbers and letters ABC 123 FS Recklessly or negliegently”.

The Prosecutor will read the charges and the Magistrate will then ask the accused to state his or her full names ,whether the accused understands the charges brought against him or her, whether the accused objects in taking the prescribed oath if the answer is no, the magistrate will proceed to ask the accused whether the prescribed oath is binding on his or her conscience, and if the accused’s answer is yes then the court will ask the accused to take the prescribed oath.

With leave of Court the Legal Representative will read the statement in terms of section 112 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 after reading such statement the Legal representative will confirm that the statement was signed by both the accused and the Legal representative before the Commissioner of Oaths. The magistrate will ask whether the accused agrees with the contents in the plea and whether the Prosecutor accepts the Plea.

If both the Prosecutor and accused respond with a “ yes” the Legal representative will then state the mitigating factors such as the personal circumstances of the accused, the fact that the accused pleaded guilty , how the accused did not waste the court’s time and how remorseful the accused is and any other factor that will convince the court to not impose a harsh sentence,  the Prosecutor will state aggravating circumstances such as the seriousness of the crime, public interest etc and any other sentence which the prosecutor deems to be appropriate in the circumstances.

One needs to bear in mind that the Accused’s License is automatically suspended upon conviction and it is very important for the Legal representative to apply for a section 35 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 enquiry. Where the Legal Representative will call the accused to the stand and ask the accused whether he or she is in possession of a valid driver’s license, what is the code of the driver’s license, how long has he been a holder of the driver’s license, whether there was an accident, what was traffic like on that particular day, how was the weather and why should the suspension of the driver’s license not be put into operation. Section 35 enquiry is important to ensure that the suspension of the driver’s license does not come into operation.

The Court will confirm that the accused’s plea is in accordance with the elements of reckless or negligent driving and then impose a proper sentence which it deems to be fair after taking all of the above factors into consideration.

The Court might impose a sentence with an option of a fine, or a sentence without an option of a fine or a wholly suspended sentence. The Court will then decide whether to allow the suspension of the accused’s driver’s license to come into operation or not.  


Reference List:

National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996

Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977