Vehicle Impounding and Forfeiture

If you are convicted of certain vehicle related offences, in particular repeated offences within five years, the police have the power to impound your vehicle. At its most severe, the impounding regime in Queensland provides for the forfeiture of your vehicle if you are convicted of 4 or more relevant vehicle-related offences within 5 years. If your vehicle is forfeited it will be sold by the Police and you will receive none of the proceeds (but you will likely be liable to pay the costs of storing and moving your vehicle before it is sold).

The types of offences which will cause the Police to impound your vehicle are broken down into two kinds, Type 1 offences and Type 2 offences. If you commit either kind of offence the police have the power (though not the obligation) to seize and impound your vehicle as follows:

Type 1 Offences

Number of offences committed within 5 years Impound period
1 90 days
2 or more Until the conclusion of proceedings, then the vehicle is forfeit upon a finding of guilt for the second or subsequent offences.

Type 2 Offences

Number of offences committed within 5 years Impound period
1 Police have no power to impound
2 7 days
3 90 days
4 or more Until the conclusion of proceedings, then the vehicle is forfeit upon a finding of guilt for the fourth or subsequent offences.

What Are Type 1 And Type 2 Offences?

The following offences are type 1 offences:

  • Dangerous Driving
  • Careless Driving
  • Participating in a street race or speed trial
  • Wilfully starting or driving a motor vehicle in a way which produces excessive smoke and noise
  • Failing to stop for Police

The following offences are type 2 offences:

  • Driving an uninsured vehicle
  • Driving without a licence
  • High range drink driving
  • Failing or refusing to provide a sample of breath or saliva for testing
  • Driving, using or parking a vehicle which is the subject of a defect notice
  • Speeding in excess of 40km/h

Can I Get My Car Back If It Has Been Impounded?

Yes. In all circumstances, even if you are charged with a second or subsequent type 1 offence or fourth and subsequent type 2 offence, you are entitled to apply to the Commissioner of Police to have your vehicle returned. The Commissioner is obliged to consider your application, but there is no requirement that they ultimately grant the release, it is a matter for their discretion.

The reasons that you can ask for your vehicle to be returned are:

  • The impounding of your vehicle would cause you or a family member severe financial or physical hardship, or
  • The offence which caused the impounding happened without your consent (if you own the impounded vehicle)
  • If the impounding offence was of a kind that could be rectified through subsequent action (for example by paying for insurance or remedying a defect) that you have rectified the issue.
  • That there were no reasonable grounds for impounding the vehicle.

No matter which ground of application you wish to pursue, the better your application for the release of your vehicle, the more likely it is to succeed. You should obtain legal advice, and likely representation, to maximise your chance of success in having your vehicle returned to you.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.


In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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