Former Dean of Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Kofi Abotsi has explained the law that allows police officers on traffic duties to demand drivers licence.
Speaking on Joy FM as part of the Constitutional Day celebration and to explain some constitutional provisions to Ghanaians, Kofi Abotsi said all Ghanaian drivers are required by law to at all times carry their drivers’ licence.
According to the lawyer, when the police upon stopping you demand your licence and you are not able to produce it you have committed an offence.
Most Ghanaians have complained about how sometimes police officers request for their licences and seize them before processing them for court.
Some have also questioned the law allowing a police officer to request for a drivers licence.
Explaining the law allowing the police officers to demand drivers’ licence, Kofi Abotsi said the laws of Ghana oblige Ghanaian drivers to at all times carry their licence.
“So starting from a point that whether or not carrying your licence is an offence, the laws of Ghana oblige drivers to carry their licences and produce them upon demand by the police, now if the police demand your licence and you fail to produce it the police have a discretion and it’s important to understand that it’s a discretion to allow you to produce it within 24 hours.”
Kofi Abotsi further stated that the discretionary powers that accompanied the law can either be exercised by the police or not.
He added that if the driver can provide reasonable explanations on how he or she is not having the licence with them maybe they were just attacked by armed robbers before approaching the police they can be pardoned.
“Now discretion is therefore supposed to be exercised, so the police can choose to exercise the discretion against you, if the police decide therefore that your licence must be produced upon demand and failure to do so on the face of it you have committed an offence so they have the right to exercise the discretion whether or not to process you for court, the reason why there is a discretion is to allow you the flexibility to produce it but if the police have reasonable doubt of the fact that you may have the licence they may not want to waste your time they can exercise the discretion against you there, so it is your primary obligation to carry your licence so, of course, you can give very good justifiable reasons why you don’t have your licence there with you………….”
Speaking on arrest and liberties, Kofi Abotsi said until you are arrested you are a free person and after your arrest, you are not. But the police in the arrest must follow the processes outlined by law to deprive you of your liberties.
“…..a person is free until arrested, liberty is a fundamental human right in Ghana and the process of depriving a person his liberty has been specified in the constitution, so unless you been taking through that process you cannot be deprived of your liberty so to speak, even putting is in the context in which you have that she or he had been picked up is problematic, the police a police must go through a process to arrest you..”