Last updated 15 February 2019
The owner of a vehicle involved in the commission of certain traffic offences can have their vehicle impounded for a specified period or in some cases forfeited permanently (ch 4 Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) (PPR Act)). The offences giving rise to this are in four categories, with each category having a different outcome.
- Type 1 (any of these offences must involve a speed trial, race or a burn out:
- dangerous operation of a vehicle
- driving without due care and attention
- taking part in a race, speed trial or skill test
- making unnecessary noise or smoke
- Type 2 (any multiple or repeat offences must be of the same kind or from the same paragraph shown in ss 69A(2)(a) to (2)(e) of the PPR Act:
- driving both an unregistered and uninsured vehicle
- unlicensed driving
- driving under the influence of alcohol (but not drugs)
- failure to provide roadside test or specimen for analysis (not including saliva) or driving under 24-hour suspension
- failure to comply with a defect notice requiring inspection of vehicle
- motorbike noise—contravention of a noise abatement order (a noise abatement order is obtained by police under s 589, and the offence of contravention of the order is found in s 590(5))
- evasion—failing to stop a vehicle when directed by a police officer (ss 754, 758).
Second and subsequent offences result in increasing penalties, and it does not matter that different vehicles were used in each offence. The forfeiture or impoundment refers to the vehicle used in the most recent offence.
According to s 74 of the PPR Act, as soon as the driver is charged, police can impound the vehicle for 90 days for the first Type 1 vehicle-related offence. For a first Type 2 vehicle-related offence, the impoundment period is seven days (s 74C PPR Act). Police have a number of powers related to the impounding and immobilisation of vehicles within these provisions (s 75 PPR Act). Police must give written notice of the impoundment to the driver and to the owner, if the driver is not the owner (s 78 PPR Act). If police also intend to apply to the court for an order, the notice must advise that fact (ss 81, 82–84 PPR Act). Once the court sets a date for the application to be mentioned in court, police must also give written notice of that date to the driver and the owner (ss 89, 94, 762 PPR Act).
The court cannot make a final order until the driver has been found guilty of each of the offences relied upon in the application, and the court must adjourn the hearing of the application until that has occurred (s 88 PPR Act). The court can, however, make an interim order impounding the vehicle for up to three months if the driver has been found guilty of at least one of the offences relied upon. This does not apply to evasion offences.
Where a court may make a final order for impoundment, it can be for any period up to three months (s 100(1) PPR Act), and where it may order forfeiture, it may order forfeiture or impoundment for up to three months (s 101(1) PPR Act).
Application for early release of vehicle
There are circumstances in which an owner of a vehicle may be able to apply for the early release of an impounded vehicle. This application is made to the Commissioner and the application must be made in the approved form and provide sufficient information to enable a decision to be made. The application may be made on the following grounds that:
- the person or their family would suffer severe financial hardship
- the person or a member of their family would suffer severe physical hardship
- the owner of the vehicle did not give consent to the offence being committed
- the grounds for the impoundment based on a Type 2 vehicle-related offence have been rectified (unlicensed or unregistered/uninsured vehicle only)
- there were no reasonable grounds to impound/immobilise the vehicle.
The application can be made by the owner of the vehicle or by a usual driver of the vehicle. It is not sufficient to drive the vehicle only occasionally, the applicant must be a person who usually drives the vehicle. For further information in relation to an application for early release, visit the police website.
Instead of making a final order for impoundment or forfeiture, the court may order the driver to perform up to 240 hours of unpaid community service. Before doing so, the court must be satisfied impoundment or forfeiture would cause severe financial or physical hardship to the owner or the usual driver of the vehicle (s 102 PPR Act). Such an order is deemed to be a fine option order (s 102(3) PPR Act), and as such the driver would need to give consent before the order can be made (s 55 Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld)). The owner cannot be ordered to perform community service, and therefore regardless of any hardship, the vehicle may be impounded or forfeited unless the driver agrees to perform the community service. Vehicle owners need to exercise caution about who they allow to drive their vehicle.
Return of vehicle to the owner
It is a ground for an application for the owner to have the vehicle returned to prove that the offence happened in circumstances that were unlawful, for example where the vehicle was being used unlawfully or had been stolen or was a rental vehicle. In those circumstances, the motor vehicle must be released to the owner as soon as reasonably practicable, and an application for impoundment or forfeiture must not be made (s 76 PPR Act).
Costs of impoundment
The driver is liable to pay the costs of removing and keeping an impounded vehicle if they are found guilty of the offence. If someone other than the driver pays the costs (e.g. an owner in order to recover their vehicle), those costs are a debt payable by the driver. If the driver is found not guilty of the offence or the application is withdrawn, the costs are payable by the State of Queensland (ss 111–112 PPR Act).
The offence of disposing of a vehicle
It is an offence punishable by a fine of up to 40 penalty units ($5222) for an owner in a pending application to modify, sell or otherwise dispose of the vehicle (s 106A PPR Act), or to remove an impounded vehicle from a holding yard (s 105 PPR Act). ‘Modify’ is defined in s 69 of the PPR Act.