Christof van der Merwe

It’s almost the end of the year. The time for year-end functions and social gatherings. The time for braai’s and pool parties, with a cocktail in hand. Most people have reverted to the services of Uber or a private transport service for a safe drive home after a night out, but some people still take chances to drive themselves whilst knowing full well that they are, or might be, over the legal alcohol limit.

What Acts are applicable?

Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 regulates the requirements and consequences of driving whilst being under the influence of intoxicating liquor. This should be read in conjunction with the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977.

What is the process?

There are two tests that can be performed to test an alcohol limit, being a breathalyser test and / or a blood test. If you are therefore pulled over for suspected drunk driving, the relevant Metro Police Officer will exercise normal protocol by asking you for your Driver’s Licence and inspecting the vehicle. If the Officer has any reason to suspect that you were drinking alcohol before, and that you are over the legal limit, you might be requested to take a breathalyser test. If it appears that you are over the legal limit, the normal step to follow will be to place you under arrest and to take you to the nearest facility for a blood test to be conducted. It is important to note that a blood test should be done within two hours after the alleged contravention.

What is the legal alcohol limit?

It is important to note that the restrictions and legal limits for normal drivers and professional drivers[1] varies. The legal limit for a professional driver is a bit more unforgiving than those of normal drivers. Allow us to easily break it down for you:

Driver Legal Breath Alcohol Limit Legal Blood Alcohol Limit
Normal Driver Less than 0.24 milligrams per 1000 millilitre of breath Less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres
Professional Driver Less than 0.10 milligrams per 1000 millilitres of breath Less than 0.02 grams per 100 millilitres

What are your rights?

It is a common mistake made by suspected drunk drivers to think that a person has the right to refuse that a specimen of blood, or a specimen of breath, be taken of him or her[2].

You do however have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to have access to your personal medical practitioner if he or she is available. You will, in this circumstance, be held liable for costs occurred. You also have the right to take your normal routine medication.

You further have the right to be arrested in accordance with the procedures and provisions of the law. Should you therefore share the opinion that your arrest was not in line with the law and that it was unlawful, you might have a case for unlawful arrest.


It is clear that driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and / or drugs having a narcotic effect should at all times be avoided for the safety of yourself and others. We all know however that sometimes the best players slip on a wet tile. Should this happen to you, kindly contact our offices for assistance in this regard.

  • [1] Section 65(3) of The National Road Traffic Act
  • [2] Section 65(9) of The National Road Traffic Act

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.