PER: Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad
On-line version ISSN 1727-3781
BASDEO, V. The Constitutional validity of search and seizure powers in South African criminal procedure. PER [online]. 2009, vol.12, n.4, pp.307-331. ISSN 1727-3781.
An important part of crime investigation is the obtaining of evidence through the search and seizure of persons and things. The South African Constitution* recognises that state authorities should not be permitted untrammelled access to search and seize. It is a necessary incident to democracy that citizens must be protected from unjustified intrusions of privacy and property by agents of the state. Otherwise, arbitrary state actions could severely affect the personal freedom and associated fundamental rights that are intended to be a predominant feature of democratic society. In this article I consider whether or not certain provisions contained in the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 and the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995 (hereafter the Criminal Procedure Act and the South African Police Service Act respectively) are in conflict with the Constitution. The provisions deal with search and seizure. I will also turn to the laws of foreign jurisdictions, specifically of the United States and Canada, for guidance and comparison. At the outset it should be pointed out that this article does not argue for the abolition of the search and seizure provisions contained in the Criminal Procedure Act and the South African Police Service Act. It is acknowledged albeit reluctantly, that there may still be a need for some of them. It is the investigative and enforcement measures provided for by these provisions, rather than the objectives, which are in issue here. It is submitted that there are search and seizure provisions contained in the Criminal Procedure Act and the South African Police Service Act, which are inconsistent with the spirit, purport and object of the Constitution.
Keywords : Criminal law; evidence; search; seizure; privacy; criminal procedure; SAPS; South African Police Service; enforcement measures; provisions.