You know how you’re usually apprehensive when the police stops you?
I mean, yeah…you usually have nothing to worry about, if you’ve done nothing wrong. But it’s Ghana Police bro, you never know. They’re out here kissing people on the lips, so hey…you can never be too sure. That’s why you always keep your 5 Ghana ready when they show up.
But what if I told you that half the time, you could have stood up to them.
No, I’m not joking.
So think back to all the times you paid a bribe. Yup, you could have escaped it. You see, there are a few things that we’ve come to accept as “normal”, simply because members of the police service always do it, not because there’s any legal justification for it. Don’t believe me? Well think back….
That time you didn’t have your license
Section 47 of Road Traffic Regulations (LI 2180) requires you to have your driver’s license available, so that when the authorities ask you for it, you can produce it for inspection.
BUT if, for one reason or the other, you don’t have your license with you, there is a 24-hour grace period to provide it. So next time abban wants to hustle you for some coins, you can quote Section 47(3) of the Road Traffic Regulations actually.
That time they asked you to get down so they search your car
The police can’t just get up and search your anything without a search warrant. But there’s a catch. If they have to search you or your property without a warrant, they have to do so on reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.
The only caveat that exists here, according to DSP Alexander Obeng, is that because the MTTD is tasked to ensure the safety of the vehicle and the driver, “If the police has issues with just your car tire, it gives them the right to inspect your vehicle to determine whether your vehicle is well maintained and safe to be on the road”.
Of course, it goes without saying that the road worthiness of a car can be checked without entry into your car.
However, in other instances where your car is being searched for any other offences other than road traffic infringements, you have a right to demand a warrant from the police officers before your vehicle is searched, Lawyer Justice Abdulai explained.
If it is late at night, you even have double power. You can tell them that it is late, and that armed robbers are dressing up at night as police people to rob. So if they have reason to suspect you, they should follow you to the nearest police station for the search.
You might also want to be recording this exchange. Just in case.
That time they wanted to make a big deal because you didn’t display your insurance sticker
This is a tricky one.
Okay, as a starting point, we’ll focus on Section 121 of the Road Traffic Act (Act 683). This says that unless your car is broken down, you must have insurance. Section 125 says that if you don’t have it, you could spend the next 12 months in jail, like you won it in a bonanza.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll see that neither Section 121 nor 125 requires you to put your insurance sticker up on the screen. As a matter of fact Section 8 of the Road Traffic Regulations requires you to display your Certificate of Road Use (popularly known as the Road Worthy Certificate), but it says nothing whatsoever about insurance.
So what did we do?
We spoke to DSP Alexander Obeng, the Head of Education, Research and Training at the Motor Transport and Traffic Directorate. He said the police have used its discretion to demand that you fix your insurance on the windscreen and close to your Roadworthy Certificate to enable the police to easily confirm it, since the law falls short of indicating what to do with your insurance sticker.
But that didn’t add up, so we contacted a lawyer – Justice Abdulai.
As we suspected, he disagreed with the DSP, reiterating that you are not required to display the insurance sticker on your windscreen. If for, inconvenience sake, you paste the sticker to avoid being stopped on the road, and harrassed by police officers, that’d be wise certainly. But there is no legal provision requiring you to slap that ugly sticker on your windshield.
That time they attempted to arrest you without reason
The next time a police officer tries to arrest you, kindly prompt them to give you a reason for your arrest. You know that thing they do in U.S movies where they do the whole “You’re under arrest for the murder of Jeffrey Oti, you have the right to remain silent” thing? Yeah that applies here too….but not all of it. Just the part where they have to tell you why they are arresting you. And if they don’t have a reason, they have to invite you to the station for questioning. Then you can choose to go at your own time, or they have to get an arrest warrant.
DSP Obeng said if the police officer fails to inform you of your offence for which you are being arrested, just get into your car and drive off.
“It is an unlawful arrest if you are not made aware of the offence(s) for which you are being arrested.
As a matter of fact, it’s every lawyer’s dream. You’d be out of there, quicker than you can say tres bien.
That time they beat you up
So they tried to arrest you without reason, you asked them to give you a reason, and they started beating you. If you truly did nothing wrong, just memorise their badge numbers and sue them for a bunch of money.
According to DSP Obeng, if a bunch of police officers beat you up, you should run to another police station and make a report and present evidence to back your allegation. Lawyer Abdulai recommended a different route; because the public mistrusts the police to be objective in such instances, to prevent any possibility of police cover up, you should seek other alternatives. “You can make a report at the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards (PIPS) or if you have a large bank account, you can initiate your own legal action against those police officers who beat you up”
Spoiler Alert: You’ll win.