Criminal Lawyers In South Africa: When Can They Help You?

A common misconception is that criminal lawyers only deal with instances that involve serious crimes such as murder or rape. However, this is not the case. It might come as a surprise, but many other situations could require you to request the aid of a criminal lawyer. So when might you need the services of a criminal lawyer in South Africa?

A criminal lawyer can help you in instances where you have been charged or accused of committing a crime. Criminal lawyers can help in several circumstances, including but not limited to drunk driving charges, bail applications, drug-related offenses, sentence and plea agreements, and criminal litigation.

Many assume that when it comes to lawyers, there is a one size fits all approach, and you do get some lawyers who provide a general service that can encompass a range of fields. However, if you are dealing with a criminal offence or charge, it is best to employ the services of a criminal lawyer who is experienced in criminal law. Before doing this, it would be good to understand which types of offences or charges will fall under a criminal lawyer’s jurisdiction.


When Should You Contact A Criminal Lawyer?

Generally, criminal law is a diverse and frequently challenging field that encompasses many different areas. It is a good idea to contact a criminal lawyer if you or a loved one have been charged or accused of committing a crime. Criminal lawyers often deal with the following areas.


Drunk Driving Or DUI

It is a criminal offence to drive or occupy the driver’s seat of a vehicle while the engine is running with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. If you have been arrested or detained for drunk or negligent driving, it would be in your best interest to enlist the services of a criminal lawyer.



There are two types of assault cases, assault involving the grievous bodily harm of a person and common assault. Both involve the use of applying unlawful and intentional force on another person.


Drug Possession

It is a severe offence in South Africa if you are caught in possession or dealing in narcotic substances. In these instances,  you might risk receiving a harsh sentence in the South African courts if you do not have proper representation by a criminal lawyer.


Attempted Murder And Murder

If you have been charged or arrested for murder or attempted murder, you will require the services of a criminal lawyer. This type of offence is seen as extremely serious and is not taken lightly by the South African courts. You could face several life sentences if not appropriately represented.


Bail Applications

If you have been arrested, you can enlist the services of a criminal lawyer to help you get released on bail.


Wrongful Arrest Claims

Suppose you feel like you have been unlawfully arrested by a member of the South African police. In that case, a criminal lawyer can help you institute a claim against them which could result in monetary remuneration, or if charges were laid against you, these might get dropped or expunged.


Criminal Record Expungement

If you have a criminal record that you wish to be expunged from the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service, a criminal lawyer can help you with this process. You will need to ensure that the required ten years have passed since the date of the conviction and that you have not been convicted of any other crime during those years.


SAPS Clearance Records

A criminal lawyer can help you get a SAPS clearance certificate, a document issued by the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management. It includes information on whether or not you have a criminal offence against your name in the system.


How Can A Criminal Lawyer Help You?

Suppose you find yourself in a situation where you are being arrested or charged for a criminal offence. In this situation, a criminal lawyer can help you by:

  • Endeavoring to get you released from custody as soon as possible by conducting after-hour bail applications or formal bail applications in a South African court;
  • Working with you to get the charges against you lowered or dropped;
  • Going through the police report and ensuring that no evidence against you was illegally attained;
  • Interviewing interested parties, such as the police or witnesses, to expose any exaggeration or lies;
  • If needed, they will accompany you to an identity parade to ensure that the correct procedures are followed;
  • Assisting you during police interrogations or in any other part of the investigation phase where evidence is being collected;
  • Conducting a thorough pre-trial investigation if your case goes to trial;
  • Employing a ballistics expert, private investigator, or any other expert, you may need to aid your case;
  • Representing you in court or enlisting the services of an advocate to attend your court proceedings;
  • Overall they will take all the necessary steps to ensure you face the minimum possible penalties;


Vital Information If You Are Arrested Or Charged With A Crime

You should bear a few things in mind if you are arrested or charged with a crime. Firstly and most importantly, you have the right to remain silent, thus protecting yourself from any further implications, and secondly, you have the right to an attorney.

One of the first steps you should take is to contact your criminal lawyer. If you cannot do so in person, a friend or family member should contact one on your behalf.

Navigating the landscape of criminal law can be challenging and scary. If not handled appropriately, it can result in life-changing circumstances, which you might have been able to avoid if you had utilized the services of a skilled and experienced criminal lawyer. If you find yourself in a situation that requires the aid of a criminal lawyer, our team at Burnett Attorneys & Notaries would be happy to assist you in any way we can. We will help in any way we can, whether it be immediate aid or assistance in answering questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us.