When can police impound or immobilise my vehicle?
In some circumstances police can impound or immobilise your vehicle if you are charged with traffic-related offences.
When your vehicle is “impounded” it will be taken in to police possession.
If your vehicle is “immobilised” police may restrict its use in some way most commonly by confiscating your number plates.
The period in which your vehicle is impounded or immobilised will be specified on a notice that police must provide to you as soon as practicable after your vehicle is impounded or immobilised.
The circumstances and duration in which police can impound your vehicle depends on the nature of your charge and your previous traffic and criminal history.
The legislation that provides police with the power to impound vehicles sets out two classes of offences.
Type 1 offences include:
- Failing to stop motor vehicle (evade police); and
- Any of the below offences in circumstances that involve a speed trial, race between motor vehicles or a burn out –
- Dangerous operation of motor vehicle; or
- Driving without due care and attention; or
- Racing and speed trial offences; or
- Offences involving starting or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke.
I have been charged with a Type 1 offence. How long can police impound my vehicle for?
The duration of impoundment depends on whether you have been convicted of previous type 1 offences.
If this is your first type 1 offence your vehicle may be impounded for up to 90 days.
If it is your second or subsequent type 1 offence your vehicle will be impounded until the end of proceedings for the new type 1 charges. If you are later found guilty of a second (or third or fourth) type 1 offence your vehicle will be forfeited and become state property.
Type 2 offences include:
- Driving an unregistered vehicle;
- Unlicensed driving;
- Driving under the influence offences;
- Failure to provide specimen of breath, blood or saliva;
I have been charged with a Type 2 offence. How long can police impound my vehicle be for?
The duration of impoundment depends on whether you have been convicted of previous type 2 offences.
If this is your second type 2 offence your vehicle may be impounded for up to 7 days.
If this is your third type 2 offence your vehicle may be impounded for up to 90 days.
If it is your fourth or subsequent type 1 offence your vehicle will be impounded until the end of proceedings for the new type 2 charge. If you are later found guilty of a fourth type 2 offence your vehicle will be permanently forfeited and become state property.
Is there anything I can do to get my vehicle released early?
If your vehicle was impounded or immobilised when you were charged with an offence and later you are found to be not guilty or proceedings are discontinued, the vehicle must be released back to you as soon as practicable.
If your vehicle has been impounded or immobilised there are some circumstances in which you may be able to apply for its early release. This can include where:
- The impoundment or immobilisation of your vehicle has resulted in severe hardship;
- The offence in question occurred without the consent of the vehicle’s owner;
- The circumstances giving rise to the offence have been rectified (e.g. an unregistered vehicle is properly registered);
- The impoundment or immobilisation of the vehicle was unreasonable.