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Revealed: Why cops are wrong to arrest drink-drivers

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MBABANE—If you were arrested by the police for drink driving, you were probably wrongly arrested.

This is because subsection nine of the Road Traffic Act No 6 of 2007 states that where a reasonable suspicion exists that a person is driving under the influence he shall not be detained for longer than the time necessary to obtain the specimen, that is, blood or breath alcohol content.

Just this week the Minister of Public Works and Transport Ntuthuko Dlamini introduced a new breathalyser known as the Lion Alcolmeter SD400/SD400P which he said would be in most police vehicles. “A person shall provide a breath or blood specimen, as the case may be where a reasonable suspicion exists that such a person is contravening this section and shall not be detained for longer than the time necessary to obtain the specimen,” reads subsection 9.

Lawyer Musa Sibandze argued that this section means that the police should not take you to jail, but take the specimen which they will then use as evidence in court during prosecution. He was supported by Crown Counsel Phataphata Mdluli who said in his understanding this meant that someone suspected to have been drunk will then have to be summoned into court at a later time or whenever a magistrate is available.

The alcohol breath content according to the RTA which could lead to one’s arrest is if it measurers 0.38 milligrams or above per 1000 millilitres. Whilst the illegal blood alcohol content taken from any part of a body of a person at anytime within two hours after the alleged offence is 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres.

According to studies of breathalysers on the internet, a majority of these held hand machines do not only identify the ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) found in alcohol beverages, but also other substances similar in molecular structure. “The machines identify any compound containing the methyl group structure and over 100 compounds can be found in the human breath at any one time and 70 to 80 per cent of them contain methyl group structure and will be incorrectly detected as ethyl alcohol.”

An example given was that an alcohol-free subject was asked to apply a pint of contact cement to a piece of plywood and then to apply a gallon of oil-base paint to a wall. The total activity lasted about an hour. Twenty minutes later the subject was tested on an Intoxilyser, which registered a BAC of .12 per cent which is very high.

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