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Traffic Officers Confiscated My Cell Phone: What You Should Know!

Since 2011 the City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law, 2011 has made it possible for an authorised officer to confiscate your cellular device if you are caught using it in your car while driving. If you end up getting caught red-handed, these are a few things you should know to make sure that all the correct procedures are followed when your cellular device gets confiscated. 

The City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law, 2011 (hereinafter “the By-Law”) prohibits driving a motor vehicle on a public road, firstly, while holding a cellular or mobile telephone or any communications device with any part of the body and, secondly, while using or operating a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device unless it is affixed to the vehicle (like a handsfree kit).

According to the By-Law an authorised officer may, in the interest of public safety, confiscate a handheld communication device if he informs the owner of such device of the reasons for doing so. He must issue a receipt to the owner, stating the place at which such device may be claimed, and he must follow all procedures contained in any policy of the city dealing with the confiscation and impoundment of property. The policy applicable in the City of Cape Town is called the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals, 2012. 

An authorised official exercising authority in terms of any By-Law of the City to impound goods, shall issue to the offending party a receipt for any property removed and impounded. This receipt must indicate: 

a)A list of the property to be removed and impounded;

b) the physical condition of the goods (to ensure that they are returned in the same physical condition that they were in when impounded);

c) the address where the impounded goods will be kept;

d) the hours during which the goods may be collected;

e) the maximum period for storage of goods before they are disposed of;

f) the conditions for the release of the impounded goods;

g) the name and office number of a council official to whom any representation regarding the impoundment may be made;

h) the date and time by when representation must be made;

i) the terms and conditions relating to the sale of unclaimed goods, by public auction, where no claim (and/or representation) is received.

The City may sell any cellular device that hasn't been claimed within ninety days after the date of impoundment through public auction which shall be advertised in local newspapers. Municipal officials and councillors, their spouses, relatives and acquaintances are prohibited from purchasing any of these impounded goods. Fees may be levied for the storage of the cellular device and any other expense incurred by the Council during impoundment. Said fees shall be determined by Council and may be adjusted from time to time. Fees and fines shall be paid at the Council cash office between the hours of 08:00 and 16:00 on Mondays to Fridays. 

Goods may be returned to the owner, or his or her representative, upon presentation of proof of payment of all fees related to the impounding and storage of the goods and any fines imposed prior to and/or during impoundment. Owners or their representatives can collect their goods during the hours and at the venue indicated in the impoundment notice served on the offender.

Officials of the City must take reasonable steps to prevent any damage to impounded goods; however, it will not be responsible for any damage caused to goods where a reasonable duty of care was exercised. Digital photographs shall be taken of all impounded goods. 

A person who contravenes a provision of this By-Law commits an offence and a person who commits such an offence is, on conviction, liable for a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years, or both. 


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