Vehicle sanctions

Vehicle sanctions are designed to improve road safety by removing high risk drivers from the roads immediately to prevent re-offending.

Vehicle sanctions are designed to improve road safety by removing high risk drivers from the roads immediately to prevent re-offending.

The vehicle may be taken and impounded, or the number plates may be confiscated. Police can also give the driver or registered operator of the vehicle a notice requiring that the vehicle be produced at a specified place within 10 days. For the combined offence, vehicle sanctions may be applied up to sixty days after the offence to allow time for the roadside drug test results to be confirmed by laboratory testing.  

Police may apply roadside vehicles sanctions where a range of serious offences are detected, including:

  • Street racing
  • Aggravated burnout
  • Engaging in a police pursuit
  • Speeding by more than 45km/h
  • Repeat unauthorised driving
  • Repeat, high-risk drink driving (from December 2018)
  • Combined drink and drug driving - if high range or repeat offences (from 28 June 2021).

Number plate confiscation or vehicle impoundment is usually for three months however it can be up to six months if the offender was disqualified from driving at the time of the offence.

Vehicle sanctions to target drink and drug driving

Police are able to apply vehicle sanctions if a driver is a repeat, high-risk drink driving offender. That is, if the offender has a previous drink driving conviction in the last 5 years and is then caught by Police committing a further offence that is:

  • Mid-range PCA (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, but less than 0.15).
  • High-range PCA offences (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more).
  • A refusal offence - where a person, when required by Police after a failed breath test, refuses or fails to submit to a breath analysis or provide a blood sample.

Since Monday 28 June 2021, vehicle sanctions may apply to combined drink and drug driving offences where they are high range PCA or repeat offences.

Frequently asked questions

  • If a driver commits certain high-risk offences, NSW Police can take roadside action to remove the vehicle from the offender, or prevent the vehicle being driven on NSW roads for a period of time. These are typically referred to as ‘vehicle sanctions’.

    In NSW, a vehicle may be taken and impounded, or the number plates may be confiscated. The vehicle may be impounded or the plates confiscated for a period of 3 months for a first offence. If the driver who committed the alleged ‘sanctionable offence’ is also disqualified from driving, the sanction period is 6 months.

    If the offender commits a second or subsequent ‘sanctionable offence’, the vehicle may be forfeited to the Crown and sold.

  • Vehicle sanctions apply if the offender is the ‘registered operator’ of the vehicle in which the offence was committed (i.e. it is their own vehicle), or if the vehicle being used is registered in a company name.

    In cases where the driver is not the registered operator, TfNSW may issue a suspension warning notice to the registered operator warning that if the same vehicle is used in a second offence, the registration of the vehicle may be suspended for 3 months.

    If a second or subsequent offence is committed, the registration of the vehicle may be suspended for 3 months.

  • Vehicle sanctions currently apply for a range of high-risk offences – such as street racing, aggravated burnout, speeding by more than 45km/hour over the limit, certain repeat, high-risk drink-driving offences or engaging in a Police pursuit.

    Since Monday 28 June 2021, vehicle sanctions may apply to combined drink and drug driving offences where they are high range PCA or repeat offences. The sanctions can apply to vehicles registered in the offender’s name, or to company registered vehicles used in these offences.

  • Where Police detect an offence for which sanctions may apply and the driver is the registered operator of the offending vehicle, or driving a vehicle registered in a company name, they may:

    • Impound the vehicle, or
    • Confiscate the plates, or
    • If the driver is also the registered operator of the vehicle, give the registered operator a motor vehicle production notice or number plate production notice (which requires plates or vehicle to be presented by a date).

    For the combined offence, vehicle sanctions may be applied up to sixty days after the offence to allow time for the roadside drug test results to be confirmed by laboratory testing.

    Where plates are confiscated at the roadside, or later produced to the Police, the Police take the plates into a Service NSW Centre for storage together with a copy of the confiscation notice handed to the driver. The Police will also place an A4-size sticker on the vehicle indicating that the plates have been confiscated. If number plates are confiscated, the vehicle cannot be driven. A driver may be charged if they drive the vehicle during the sanction period.

    The driver may also have to arrange for the car to be towed to avoid parking fines or if the vehicle is impounded the driver may have to pay towing fees as well as impound fees.

  • If the offender is sent a ‘production notice’ and the vehicle or number plates are not produced, a court imposed penalty of $3300 can apply and TfNSW can suspend the vehicle’s registration for 3 months.

  • Number plate confiscation or vehicle impoundment is usually for three months however it can be up to six months if the offender was disqualified from driving at the time of the offence.
  • A person can apply to the local court to get a vehicle or number plates back before the impoundment or plate confiscation period ends. The appellant needs to show the court that they 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 a vehicle or number plates earlier than five working days after the vehicle was impounded or the number plates were confiscated.

  • If a driver continues to use their vehicle to commit high risk offences, the vehicle could be forfeited permanently.

    A motor vehicle that is used in a second or subsequent ‘sanctionable offence’ by the offending operator within a 5-year period can be forfeited (permanently confiscated) where there is a finding of guilt for the offence by a driver.

    Forfeiture may be commuted by the Court to a period of impounding or confiscation of number-plates if the court is satisfied that the forfeiture will cause extreme hardship to the offender, or any other person (such as a family member).

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