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Vehicle Seizures & Recoveries

What to do if your vehicle is seized.

Under Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 there are several powers the police may use to seize vehicles.

Vehicles can be seized for the following reasons:

Careless driving

  • Often a first warning is issued initially.

Unlicensed drivers

  • A uniformed officer requires a person to produce his/her driving licence and its counterpart (if applicable) for examination if requested.
  • If the person fails to produce them, and the officer has reasonable grounds for believing a motor vehicle is or was being driven by the person other than in accordance with a driving licence for that class of vehicle, the vehicle will be seized.

Uninsured drivers

  • A uniformed officer requires a person to produce evidence that a motor vehicle is not or was not being driven without a valid certificate of insurance to cover its use.
  • If the person fails to produce such evidence, and the officer has reasonable grounds for believing the vehicle is or was being driven without a valid certificate of insurance to cover its use, the vehicle will be seized.

Drivers who fail to stop

  • A uniformed officer requires a person driving a motor vehicle to stop the vehicle when requested.
  • If the person fails to stop the vehicle when requested, or fails to stop the vehicle long enough, the vehicle could be seized.
  • This also applies to drivers who stop but then make off on foot.

Obstruction or Dangerous to other road users

  • Attending officers will give the driver a reasonable time to remove their vehicle if it is causing an obstruction; if not the vehicle could be recovered.

For use as evidence

  • Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) police can recover any evidence at a crime scene.

Road tax offences

  • Our role involves only the seizing of the vehicle and giving of a DVLA leaflet explaining how to get the vehicle back. We do not get involved in the release of the vehicle, as this is dealt with by the vehicle recovery company involved.

Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN)

  • In addition to untaxed seizures, the DVLA powers allow officers to seize vehicles seen driven on a road that have been declared as SORN. 

Foreign-registered vehicles (FRVs)

The powers also allow officers to seize FRVs when they have been driven on a publically maintained road and have either:

  • Been in the UK for longer than 6 months (visiting, on holiday, etc.).
  • Or if the driver/owner is a resident in the UK, then the 6 months does not apply and the vehicle must be registered, taxed and insured in the UK before it can be driven. There may be exemption to this in the case of foreign students.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can visit the following Police Stations:

  • Brighton (John Street)
  • Chichester
  • Crawley
  • Hastings
  • Eastbourne (1 Grove Road)
  • Worthing (Chatsworth Road)

Our Police Sites page has details of opening hours and locations.

You will have 7 working days to present your documents at the Police Stations above and 14 days to claim the vehicle back. Your vehicle will be disposed of if it is not collected within these times.

You will need to take:

  • The seizure notice issued at the roadside.
  • The penalty ticket issued at the roadside (if applicable).
  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle. Ideally, this would be the V5C registration document. Alternatively, you can produce the new keeper supplement of the V5C or a printed receipt for the vehicle but these documents will not be accepted on face value and further enquiries may be necessary.
  • Your driving licence.
  • Your valid certificate of insurance. This must be specific to the vehicle and name the driver.

If you are unable to produce the original documents, the release of the vehicle may be prevented or delayed and you could incur further storage costs. All documents must be originals, faxes and photocopies will not be accepted.

Once the officer is satisfied your documentation is in order, they will stamp the seizure notice and make contact with the recovery operator who is holding your vehicle on behalf of Sussex Police. The front office will also email the recovery yard as well as stamping the form, authorising the release of the vehicle. Then - providing the garage/vehicle compound is open - you can usually go and collect the vehicle straight away taking your relevant documentation with you:

  • Photographic ID (if licence has been sent away then take Passport).
  • Proof of ownership Vehicle insurance.

If the police are not satisfied with the documentation, they may either:

  • refer the case back to the police officer who seized the vehicle (or a member of the Roads Policing or Vehicle Recovery departments).
  • ask you to return with alternative documentation.

Ultimately, if you are unable to provide satisfactory documentation, the vehicle will not be released. It will be kept for 14 days from the time it was seized, then it will be disposed of.


The vehicle must be reclaimed by the person who owned it when it was seized by us.

You cannot sell the vehicle while it is in our custody. However, the owner/keeper can come to the police station with a nominated person to collect the vehicle. The owner will have to prove they own the vehicle and the nominated party will have to show they have appropriate insurance cover and valid driving licence.

Please note: the nominated driver cannot use their own comprehensive insurance.

Yes, as long as the policy:

  • specifically names the driver who is collecting the vehicle.
  • specifically lists the vehicle on the stock list.

Trade policies will only be accepted if accompanied by stock books and VAT registration certificate. The driver should also have declared to the police officer who seized the vehicle that they were driving the vehicle for business purposes.

Remember, Sussex Police will not accept documents on face value. Checks will be completed in conjunction with the DVLA and Motor Insurers' Bureau. Sussex Police may also make direct contact with your insurance company. Please note that this could lead to your insurer withdrawing cover if you have not advised them of any driving convictions or pending convictions.

The vehicle will be kept for 14 days after it is seized. If you do not collect it, we are authorised to dispose of the vehicle on the fifteenth day. You will then automatically be liable to pay the statutory recovery fee, 14 days of statutory storage fees and the disposal fee. This could be pursued through court action.

If you intend to collect the vehicle but have a problem meeting the 14 day deadline you must make contact with the recovery operator as soon as possible. Failure to make contact within 14 days is likely to result in the disposal of your vehicle. In exceptional cases, arrangements can be made to keep a vehicle for longer at the cost of the vehicle owner/keeper.

If you don't want the vehicle back, you can disclaim it by signing a form signing the vehicle over to us for disposal. Once you disclaim the vehicle, further storage costs will not be applied, but you will still be liable for the recovery fee and storage up to that point.

If you don't want the vehicle back, we would prefer that you disclaim it rather than simply not turn up to collect it: it enables us to draw a line under the incident.

Disclaiming your vehicle can also save you incurring longer storage fees. You can disclaim your vehicle:

  1. With the police officer who seizes your vehicle (when the vehicle is first seized).
  2. By attending one of the following police stations: Brighton (John Street), Chichester, Crawley, Hastings, Worthing, and taking your seizure notice with you.
  3. By attending the recovery operator premises within office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm).