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Impoundment of Motor Vehicles

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  • Impoundment of Motor Vehicles

Has your Vehicle been Impounded by or Forfeited to Police?

Under certain circumstances, Police have the power to impound a person’s vehicle and apply for a forfeiture order.

An impound of a vehicle refer to the vehicle being kept under Police control for a period of 30 days. Prior to 2011, a vehicle was only legally able to be impounded for 48 hours. Since new Hoon Laws came into effect, legislation has given police broader powers to impound and seize vehicles reasonably believed to have been used in ‘hoon’ type offending.

Whilst an impound does not involve permanent seizure, if the Police apply for and are granted a forfeiture order for a vehicle, that vehicle is permanently seized and becomes the property of the government. If you ever wondered where emergency services got their vehicles for casualty extraction training, its usually as a result of a forfeiture after a person has been found guilty of a ‘hooning’ offence.

Due to the legal complexities of impounds and forfeitures of vehicles, we highly recommend contacting our office to determine whether you may have a case to resist a police forfeiture application.

Hoon Laws

Legislation was brought into effect in 2006 to promote road safety and reduce the number of incidents occurring on Victorian Roads. This legislation soon became known as “Hoon Laws”, with reference to hoon driving being dangerous and reckless driving which puts the safety of the community at risk.

The main purpose was to give Police additional powers to render a vehicle liable to impoundment and immobilisation if it was believed to have been used in the commission of a “hooning” offence.

It was further provided in legislation that if a person is found guilty of three hoon related offences inside three years, their vehicle could be automatically forfeited permanently.

In 2015, further legislation relating to the inclusion of an additional hoon offence was effected which meant that a person who is caught driving with a BAC of 0.10 or more, even on a first offence could have their vehicle impounded.

Circumstances resulting in Impoundment or Forfeiture

The offences that allow Police to impound vehicles are vast and known as “Hoon Laws”. Essentially, any relevant driving offence, especially those that present an unacceptable risk to other road users and the community, carry with it the ability for police to seize or immobilise a motor vehicle.

Some of those relevant offences include but are not limited to:

  • Driving unlicensed or disqualified
  • High range drink driving
  • Loss of traction
  • Dangerous or Careless Driving
  • Street racing
  • Improper use of a Motor Vehicle
  • Failing to stop on Police direction
  • Driving offences involving emergency workers

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, these are the most common reasons whereby clients may have their vehicles impounded for 30 days under Victorian Hoon Laws.

If within a 6-year period you commit a subsequent offence of:

  • Drug driving
  • Drink driving
  • Breaching a Zero BAC condition

 

The Court deems these to be hoon related offences and this may render your vehicle liable to being seized.

Powers of Police to Impound Vehicles

If the Police reasonably believe your motor vehicle has been used in the commission of a hoon offence, they have the power to issue an impound notice. This can be an on-the-spot impoundment and your vehicle may be towed at your expense. Police may even attend your place of residence and issue a notice to surrender at a later date. Unfortunately these powers extend to police suspicions, meaning that your vehicle can be impounded prior to a finding of guilt later on in Court. This assumes that police have reasonable suspicions for alleging a hooning related offence has been committed and there is High Court rulings on how the Court is to interpret whether a reasonable police suspicion exists.

Upon a finding of guilt, police may make a further application to immobilise or forfeit a person’s vehicle. These applications must be filed within 28 days of being sentenced.

Impound vehicle 1

In circumstances where a driver is found guilty of a hoon offence and within the preceding 6 years if the same driver has been found guilty of a previous hoon offence, the Court must order that the vehicle involved or the driver’s personal vehicle be impounded for a maximum of 3 months. The Court also has the power under these circumstances to order that your car be forfeited to the State.

It is a common experience that innocent motor vehicle owners loan out their pride and joy only to fall within the ambit of the law relating to the impounding of your motor vehicle. In these circumstances, a Court can order that a vehicle owned by the guilty person be seized in substitution for your vehicle. Call MK Law today if you find yourself in these circumstances on 1800 130 120.

 

Can the Impoundment or Forfeiture be appealed?

Impound vehicle

If your vehicle has been impounded or an application to forfeit your vehicle has been made but you were not the driver, there are options that we can assist you with. Some examples are where your vehicle has been stolen or where you have loaned your vehicle out to somebody else. An application can be made to Court that you are the owner of the vehicle, and it is causing a severe detriment to your livelihood. The Courts can make an order to have your vehicle released from impound or have a forfeiture order vacated.

If you have been found guilty of a “hooning” related offence and your car has been impounded, an appeal can be filed outlining exceptional circumstances as to why your vehicle should be released or spared from forfeiture. These arguments could be that you live remotely, that you require your motor vehicle for travel arrangements for children or being the sole person responsible for assisting other family members. These appeals are not regularly accepted, therefore it is important to have a criminal lawyer appear on your behalf to put your best case forward.

When making an application, at least 7 days’ notice must be provided to the parties involved, including the Chief Commissioner of Police, with the reasons set out as to why your vehicle should be released.

If an offence of driving whilst disqualified or suspended has occurred and an order has been made to forfeit your vehicle, the Court must not decline the order if an appeal is made under exceptional hardship circumstances. The Court must also order a vehicle be impounded or forfeited if a driver has been disqualified or suspended for longer than 3 months, even if it may cause exceptional hardship on the accused. The main exception to this rule is if the vehicle is mandated or essential, not convenient, to the offender’s employment and there is no alternate transportation available.

Due to the difficulties and the circumstances in which the Court may have no discretion to accept an appeal, our criminal lawyers from MK Law can assist you in advising if the consequences of the impoundment of the vehicle are sufficient to amount to exceptional hardship and file the appeal with the Court accordingly.

 

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Contact Us for Expert Assistance on Motor Vehicle Impoundment

MK Law has had frequent success in releasing vehicles from impoundment on the basis of exceptional circumstances.

Whilst forfeiture orders can be difficult to resist due to the broad Police powers to make the relevant application, MK Law can advise you on the merits of applying to resist any prosecution application or appeal an order. Contact our office today on 1800 130 120 and have a chat with our criminal lawyers to determine how we can best assist you.

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