Getting your car or number plates back

Information about when the police can impound (take away) your car or confiscate (remove) number plates if you commit certain offences and how you can get them back.

If your car was involved in a 'sanctionable offence', the police officer can:

  • immediately impound your vehicle if you were the driver and registered owner of the vehicle
  • immediately remove your number plates and attach a notice to the vehicle stating that the number plates have been removed. This is called a 'number-plate confiscation notice'. It is a criminal offence to drive your car during the confiscation period
  • send you a notice, called a 'production notice', telling you that you have to take your vehicle to be impounded or remove your number plates and give them to the police within a specific time.

Sanctionable offences include:

  • some drink driving offences 
  • street racing
  • burnouts
  • a police pursuit
  • speeding by more than 45 km/h (does not include camera detected offences)
  • speeding by more than 30 km/h if you are a disqualified driver (does not include camera detected offences). 

The police may impound (take away) your vehicle if you own the vehicle and you have a conviction for a drink driving offence in the previous five years and it is one of these offences: 

  • mid-range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more but less than 0.15)
  • high-range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (a blood concentration of more than 0.15)
  • if you were charged with refusing to give a breath test or failing to provide a blood sample, when requesting by police.   

The impound period of your car or plates is three months, unless you are a disqualified driver. 

The police also have the power to take away your car or remove number plates if you are:

  • disqualified from driving or you have never been licensed, and
  • you have been convicted of either of these offences on two or more prior occasions within the past five years.

The police will check your licence and driving record to determine whether you are a repeat offender. 

If you are a repeat offender, the police may take away your car or remove number plates for three to six months, depending on your licence and your driving offences.

If your vehicle is impounded or number plates confiscated, you should seek legal advice. 

If you don’t hand over your vehicle or number plates when directed to, you may be given a fine or be charged. If you are convicted, you could be fined and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) (formerly known as Roads and Maritime Services or RMS) may suspend your registration for up to 3 months.

If your number plates are confiscated you may have to arrange for your car to be towed to avoid parking fines. If your vehicle is impounded you may have to pay towing fees as well as impound fees.

At the end of the impoundment period, you should contact the police to find out where your car has been impounded to arrange to pick it up.

The police can ask you to pay towing and storage fees before they will release the car. If you cannot pay these fees you can ask the police to waive the charges.

Before you drive the car you must remove any number-plate confiscation notice attached to it.

Police should have delivered your number plates to TfNSW. At the end of the confiscation period, you should contact TfNSW to arrange to pick up your number plates.

If your number plates were damaged when they were removed, they should give you replacement number plates.

If you have any trouble getting your car or number plates back, you should get legal advice.

The police can only impound or take the number plates of the car you are driving, if you are the registered owner of the car. 

If the vehicle is registered in your name but you were not driving the vehicle when it was involved in an offence, TfNSW may send you a warning notice. 

If your vehicle is involved in any further sanctionable offences in the next five years, the vehicle's registration may be suspended for up to three months.

If you receive a warning letter from TfNSW, you should get legal advice.

You can apply to the local court to get your car or number plates back before the impoundment or confiscation period ends. You do not need to be the registered owner of the vehicle to make the application but you will need to show the court that you need or use the vehicle.

The court will consider:

  • whether it is reasonably likely that the vehicle will be used to commit sanctionable offences again, or
  • any extreme hardship caused to someone other than the registered owner because the vehicle or number plates have been taken away.

The court cannot release your vehicle or your number plates earlier than five days after they were confiscated.

If you want to apply to the court for early release of your vehicle or number plates, you should get legal advice first.

Step by step guide - Getting your car or number plates back early