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 (ss 69–123 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 48 hours. Other impoundments or forfeiture require an application to the court to be made within 48 hours of the person being charged (s 86 PPR Act). Police must give written notice of the 48-hour 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).
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.
It is a defence to an application for the owner to prove that the offence happened without their knowledge and consent (s 107 PPR Act). In practice, it would seem unlikely that a Type 1 offence could occur with the owner’s knowledge and consent unless the owner was present, as these offences relate to the manner of driving. With some Type 2 offences, however, such as unregistered, uninsured or unlicensed driving, or failure to comply with a defect notice, the owner may well be aware of these matters at the time of giving permission to a person to drive the vehicle. It does not matter that the owner is unaware that the driver has previously been found guilty of other offences, and again, owners need to exercise caution about who they allow to drive their vehicle.
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 $4712 for an owner in a pending application to modify, sell or otherwise dispose of the vehicle, or to remove an impounded vehicle from a holding yard (s 106 PPR Act). ‘Modify’ is defined in s 69 of the PPR Act.