Warrantless Search and Seizures by the South African Police Service: Weighing up the Right to Privacy versus the Prevention of Crime





warrantless searches, warrantless seizures, Police, constitutional invalidity, reasonable grounds, privacy, consent, prevention of crime, human dignity, Criminal Procedure Act


The constitutional right to privacy is enshrined in section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. It is premised on the notion that all persons should be protected from intrusions on their privacy by any person or institution. The Constitutional Court has also, on numerous occasions, held that the right to privacy is bolstered by its connection with the right to human dignity. It is undeniable that every person's right to privacy should be protected. However, a person's right to privacy is violated when police officials conduct warrantless search and seizure operations. Generally section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides for warrantless search and seizure operations when a police official has a reasonable suspicion that a search warrant will be issued to him and that a delay in obtaining such a warrant would defeat the object of the search. Warrantless searches are important for the prevention of crime, but recent case law has suggested that there has been a progressive shift towards protecting the right to privacy of the individual subjected to warrantless searches, since there are a number of laws besides section 22 that regulate warrantless searches and which have been declared to be constitutionally invalid. This article seeks to demonstrate that the current regulatory framework for warrantless searches should be reviewed in order to protect the legitimacy of the police as well as the dignity and privacy of the citizens of South Africa.



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Author Biography

Windell Nortje, University of the Western Cape

Dr Windell Nortje

Associate Lecturer

Foundation Programme

Faculty of Law

University of the Western Cape





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How to Cite

Nortje, W. (2021). Warrantless Search and Seizures by the South African Police Service: Weighing up the Right to Privacy versus the Prevention of Crime. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24, 1–27. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2021/v24i0a8153