Here, you can find out how to reclaim a vehicle that has been seized under Section 165A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This means an officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was uninsured or was not driving in accordance with their driving licence.

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, including vehicles, 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 six 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.

How to reclaim your vehicle

If your vehicle is seized, you have seven working days to go to the relevant police station with the correct documents (see below) and have your seizure form (issued at the roadside) stamped by the police.

Go to any of these police stations:

Brighton (John Street)
Eastbourne (1 Grove Road)
Worthing (Chatsworth Road)

Use our police station finder to get directions and station opening times.

If after 14 days, you either haven’t reclaimed the vehicle or haven’t met the legal requirements to reclaim it, we'll dispose of it.

The correct documents you need to reclaim your vehicle

You'll need to take these documents to the police station:

  • 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, which must name the driver and be specific to the vehicle

If you can't 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, we won't accept faxes and photocopies.

If we're not satisfied with your documents, we may:

  • 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 can't provide satisfactory documents, we won't release your vehicle. We'll keep it for 14 days, then we'll dispose of it.

Trade or business insurance

You can use trade or business insurance to claim a seized vehicle as long as the policy:

  • names the driver who is collecting the vehicle
  • 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.

We won't accept documents at face value, we'll carry out checks with the DVLA and Motor Insurers' Bureau. We might also make direct contact with your insurance company.

Please note, this could lead to your insurer withdrawing cover if you haven't told them about any driving convictions or pending convictions.

If someone is reclaiming the vehicle on your behalf

The vehicle must be reclaimed by the person who owned it when it was seized by us and you can't sell the vehicle while it's in our custody.

However, you can come to the police station with a nominated driver to collect the vehicle. You'll have to prove you own the vehicle and your nominated driver will have to show they have appropriate insurance cover and a valid driving licence.

Please note, the nominated driver can't use their own comprehensive insurance.

Releasing the vehicle

Once the officer is satisfied your documents are in order, they'll stamp the seizure notice and tell the recovery operator who's holding your vehicle for Sussex Police. They'll also email the recovery yard, authorising the release of the vehicle. You can then usually go straight to the garage/pound (check opening times first) and collect your vehicle.

You need to take with you:

  • photographic ID 
  • proof-of-ownership vehicle insurance

Payment of charges

You can find full details about the statutory charges in the Road Traffic Act (Retention and disposal of seized vehicles) Regulations 2005 – amended 2008.

Please note, the daily storage charges start from midday the day after the vehicle was seized.

Disclaiming a vehicle

If you don't want your 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 won't apply, but you'll still be liable for the recovery fee and storage up to that point.

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

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

You can disclaim your vehicle:

  • with the police officer who seizes your vehicle (when it's first seized)
  • by attending the recovery operator premises within office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm)
  • by attending one of the following police stations with your seizure notice:
    Brighton (John Street)

If you don't disclaim your vehicle or collect it 

If you don't disclaim your vehicle or collect it, we're authorised to dispose of it on the fifteenth day after it was seized.

You'll then automatically be liable to pay the statutory recovery fee, 14 days of statutory storage fees and the disposal fee.

We could pursue this 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.

If you don't, your vehicle will likely be disposed of. In exceptional cases, arrangements can be made to keep a vehicle for longer at your cost.