Newcastle Police and Traffic Highway Command announced on 16 April 2015 that it was targeting “hoons” in the Newcastle area with Newcastle Commander, John Gralton stating Police “will consider the confiscation of vehicles and any necessary action for people that repeatedly break the road rules”. According to Police, places such as Kooragang Island and Steel River are hot spots for committing “hoon” offences and will be targeted by Police.
But can the Police confiscate or de-register your car? What if it’s Mum’s car or your mate’s car?
The law empowers Police to impose penalties against drivers who are caught driving in a reckless or dangerous manner. Recently, the law was amended to broaden the offences for which Police could impose penalties. Today, drivers who are detected committing “hoon” offences can not only lose their driver’s license but also possession of the car they were driving regardless of who owns it. This presents a difficulty for persons who lend their car to others, or parents who could lose the family car if their child is caught committing a “hoon” offence.
If you are caught committing a “hoon” offence the law empowers police to confiscate the number plates of the car you are driving, which effectively de-registers that car, or confiscate and possibly impound the car.
If you are the registered owner of a car used in committing a “hoon” offence you can be required to produce the number plates to Police immediately or within a specified time. The number plates are confiscated for a three month period. The car cannot be driven by anyone during the confiscation period. If someone drives that car they may be fined up to $3,300.00 and face further penalties.
Police can confiscate any car in which a “hoon” offence is committed regardless of who actually owns the car. If a car is confiscated for a period exceeding three months, the car will be impounded.
So what is a “hoon” offence?
A “hoon” offence specifically includes any involvement in races, attempts on speed records and other speed trials. Involvement extends to organising, promoting or taking part in any race, attempt to break any car speed record or competitive speed trial. You can only be involved in races or speed trials if you have written approval from the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner may accept, refuse or impose conditions on your proposed race or speed trail.
Similarly if you are involved (without the permission of the Commissioner) in drag racing, road racing, or operate a car to cause sustained loss of traction by one or more of its wheels you will be committing a “hoon” offence. Similarly if you are caught promoting, viewing or photographing the “hoon” behaviour you can be charged and penalised.
Additionally, Police may also charge drivers caught committing “hoon” offences with negligent, furious or reckless driving or menacing driving. The penalties for which, if convicted, carry terms of imprisonment.
The Police have de-registered or confiscated the car you were driving. What are your options?
You can apply to the Local Court for early release of the confiscated number plates or impounded car. The Court before making an order for early release must consider the safety of the public, the likelihood of the car being involved in further offence and any hardship that the registered owner may face as a result of not having access to their car.
Importantly before the impounded car is released to you, all outstanding monies must be paid. These monies can include; towing charges, storage charges and any other incurred expenses.
If you commit and are found guilty of a second or subsequent offence within 5 years under the applicable law Police may sell or use the car involved for crash testing. After receiving notice that the car will be forfeited the registered owner can apply to the Local Court for an order that the car instead be impounded or number plates confiscated. In the event the car is sold the registered owner can apply to the Commissioner to receive the balance of the sale proceeds. This application must be made within 12 months after the date of sale.