“My son was recently arrested after being in a bar fight. The police offered him the option of paying an admission of guilt. While he did not accept it, I do wonder if it would not have been the better option. What are the consequences of paying an admission of guilt?”
The South African Police may offer an arrested person the option of paying an admission of guilt fine, but only if the person has been arrested for a less serious offence, and so doing lighten the load of congested court rolls. This fine is paid before the accused appears in court, and can create the impression that it is an easy and affordable way out. In many instances the accused only pays the fine to secure his release and avoid a night in a police cell.
It is important to note that the amount payable to be released on bail differs from the amount payable for an admission of guilt fine. If the person pays an admission of guilt, he will get a criminal record. It is against the law to force an accused to pay an admission of guilt, as well as to create the impression that should an accused not pay the fine, he will be denied bail. As soon as a suspect’s fingerprints have been taken and a formal police docket has been opened, a person will get a criminal record should he pay the admission of guilt fine. However this does not mean that should a person pay a regular speed fine, he will also have a criminal record!
If a criminal record arises from paying an admission of guilt fine, the criminal record will be valid for 10 years, which naturally has serious implications. If the admission of guilt appears on a person’s SAP69 (criminal record), the person may have trouble getting a visa to travel overseas, struggle to successfully apply for a firearm license, struggle to get a job, etc.
If a person is however unaware that he got a criminal record by paying an admission of guilt fine, our High Court can be approached with an application to clear the person’s name. But such an application has obvious cost implications.
There is a place for admissions of guilt, but it’s always advisable to first contact your attorney for advice before making any admissions of guilt, especially considering the serious consequences it holds.