Criminal law is one the most area of South African law that caused so much harm to the society and concern to the government, and this category of law deals with acts the of intentional harm to individuals but which, in a larger sense are offences against all the members of the society. It is a crime to break into a property that does not belong to one and such property can me house, home and other dwelling areas because the act not only violates the privacy and safety of the properties it most of the times shatters the collective sense that we are secure in our own properties. A crime is a deliberate or reckless act that causes harm to another person or another person’s property, and it is also a crime to neglect a duty to protect others from harm. South African Criminal procedure Act 53 of 1977, lists numerous criminal offences ranging from indecent assault, common assault, intimidation, criminal injuria, housebreaking, attempted murder, murder, rape, sexual assault, assault against mental persons, vandalism, robbery, assaulting with intention to do grievous bodily harm and so many others and the Act stipulates the range of punishment that can be imposed. Since crimes are an offence against society, normally the state or government usually represented by South African Police Force will investigate alleged crimes and thereafter handover the file and it content to the National Prosecuting authority to make a decisions on whether to prosecute or not and these prosecutions criminal allegations on the victim’s behalf. The police gather evidence and, in court, public prosecutors present the case against the person accused of the crime. For someone to be convicted of a crime, it must be proven that a crime was committed and, for most offences, that the person meant to commit the crime that is the person must have had intention and or acted negligently. For instance, striking another person is the crime of assault but it is only a crime if the blow was intentional. How criminal matters begin at Ebi Okeng Attorneys Inc.
General criminal cases begin with the arrest of an accuse after the allegation and or suspicions that a crime has been committed. An arrest must be based on probable cause or reasonable suspicions normally by a peace office and or the police. This means that the arresting office must have sufficient facts to believe that the suspect or the accuse has committed a crime. Crimes in South Africa are government by the criminal procedure Act 59 of 1977 as amended which in all circumstances must comply with the precisions of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa especially the Bill right which can be found under chapter 2 of the Constitution. And crimes in South Africa maybe categorized at different levels of seriousness:
- Traffic Violations / Tickets– This kind of offence is term Non-criminal offenses and or violations. These offenses can carry a fine up to R 300 to R 10.000.
- Class B Misdemeanors– Criminal offenses that can carry a fine of R1200.00, but do not carry any jail time.
- Class A Misdemeanors– Criminal offenses that carry fines of up to R2000.00 and up to 1 year in the House of Correction.
- Class B Felony– Criminal offenses that can carry up to a R4000.00 fine and 3 ½ to 7 years in the South African Prison.
- Class A Felony– Criminal offenses that can carry large fines and 7 ½ to 15 years in the South African Prison.
The Criminal Trial Process
After an arrest, the accuse will usually be entitled to police bail. This is the bail that police can grant without the accuse appearing in court before a magistrate or a judge.
- Where bail is refused by the police sometimes if it weekend or after court hours say like 4:30pm there is normally a standby prosecutor attached to each police station who has the authority to grant bail that falls within certain schedules.
- If the police and the standby prosecutor refused to grand bail for whatever reason the state and or police has 24 hours of the first court hour to take the accused to court and application for bail maybe made in court.
- If the state opposed bail then the matter maybe argued and the presiding officer will listen to evidence from both the state and the accuse. The obligation is normally on the accuse to show reason why he should be release on bail and he will normally promise through his legal representative that he will not interfere with ongoing investigation, intimidate witnesses.
- Should the court agrees with the accuse he / she will be granted bail and release with or without condition but normally with a warning to appear on the next day. The case or matter is normally not put to the accuse that an accuse is not particularly required by law to plead to the charges because at the first appearance is decides bail.
- Arraignment (violation and misdemeanor cases)
In violation and misdemeanor cases, the accuse first court appearance will be the arraignment. At an arraignment the accuse is formally charged and must enter a plea.
- Probable Cause Hearing and Indictments (felony cases)
In felony cases, the district court will schedule an arraignment to set bail and a probable cause hearing. Once the court determines that probable cause existed at the time of the arrest, the case will be bound over to the Superior Court for possible indictment and to be scheduled for a jury trial.
After arraignment, the defendant is entitled to receive all the police reports, photographs, witness statements, or any other evidence the State intends to use to prove that the defendant broke the law. This is called the discovery process.
Trials in New Hampshire can take place in the District Court for violations and misdemeanors, in front of a single judge. Felony cases are always heard in Superior Court where the defendant then has the right to pick either a single judge trial, or a jury trial.
The defendant may appeal guilty decision to the South African High Court where the magistrate decision was given within 15 days and after 14 days. The High Court can overturn a conviction if an error of law was made during the trial.