Towed Vehicle Information
Do you think your car has been towed?
Your car may be towed by the San Francisco Police Department for any one of many reasons. It may be parked illegally or appear to be abandoned. The registration may have expired, or parking tickets gone unpaid or it may have been involved in a crime. Your car may also be towed if it has been in an accident or if police determine it is unsafe to drive or if your driver’s license has expired.
To find out if your car has been towed
The majority of cars towed in San Francisco have been parked illegally or abandoned. These tows are managed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. If you think your car was towed for a parking issue, call the City and County of San Francisco Impound, at 1-415-865-8200 or click here to look for the car online. You will need to provide your license plate number, vehicle description, suspected tow date and location.
Note: If you cannot confirm your vehicle has been towed, it may have been stolen. To report a stolen vehicle, call the SFPD at 1-415-553-0123.
What if your car has been towed for other reasons?
The SFPD may have ordered a tow because the vehicle was creating a hazard or involved in a crime or your license has expired. In that case the officer involved may already have given you information on how to retrieve it. If you need more information, call the City and County of San Francisco Impound, at 1-415-865-8200.
Do you need to report a car that should be towed?
Is a car blocking your driveway or the sidewalk? Have you noticed a car parked in one place for more than 72 hours? Call 3-1-1 to report it.
If your car has been towed, how can you get it back?
Vehicles towed by the SFPD for parking violations, non-injury collisions, or recovered stolen vehicles can be retrieved immediately at the City and County of San Francisco Impound, run by Auto Return. Vehicle owners must first obtain a release form from the SFPD. In most cases, the registered owner of the vehicle can obtain the release form by bringing his or her driver’s license and proof of ownership to the nearest police station, where an officer will verify the information. The owner may then pick up the vehicle at:
The City and County of San Francisco Impound (Auto Return)
450 7th Street (between Harrison St. and Bryant St., around the corner from the Hall of Justice)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Click here for information on towing fees.
What if your car was towed for a more serious reason?
If your car was towed because the driver was unlicensed or had a suspended license, you will need to call 415-678-3625 to get a vehicle release.
As the owner of a towed car, you may request a hearing to determine the validity of the tow. Tow hearings are conducted without need of appointments Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM, by calling 415-678-3625. If the line is busy, please hang up and call back in a few minutes.
Also please email a photo of your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to SFPD.STOP@sfgov.org to aid in the release of your vehicle. To avoid delays, do not change the vehicle’s registration to another person’s name.
The SFPD will charge an administrative fee of $194 for all vehicles towed due to an arrest and pursuant to Sections 22651(h), 22651(p), 22655.5 of the Vehicle Code. This is separate from any towing and storage fees that will be charged by the City and County of San Francisco Impound. Fees cannot be waived if the vehicle was towed in the commission of a crime.
What if your car was towed in connection with a criminal investigation?
If your vehicle was towed because of an ongoing criminal investigation, the investigating sergeant must remove any holds on the vehicle before you can get it back. After the hold is removed, you will need to get a vehicle release by emailing a photo of your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to SFPD.STOP@sfgov.org. Then call 415-678-3625 after the email was sent to finish processing your release.
PLEASE NOTE: YOU MUST BE THE REGISTERED OR LEGAL OWNER OF THE VEHICLE TO GET A VEHICLE RELEASE UNLESS OTHERWISE DESIGNATED BY THE REGISTERED OWNER.
FEES CAN NOT BE WAIVED IF THE VEHICLE WAS TOWED IN THE COMMISSION OF A CRIME.
What if you want to appeal a towing fee?
As the owner of a towed car, you may request a hearing to determine the validity of the tow. You must do so by mail or by calling 415-678-3625 within 10 days of the tow.
To request a hearing by mail, download the Request for Tow Hearing, available here and mail it to:
SFPD Traffic Company 2345 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94158
Please include any documents you would like the tow hearing officer to consider.
Call 415-678-3625 and speak to a tow hearings officer without the need of an appointment, Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM.
The tow hearing officer will determine whether the towing of your vehicle was lawfully conducted under the California Vehicle Code. If the tow was improper, you will be granted a waiver or refund. Financial hardship is not a valid reason for appeal. The only issue evaluated at the tow hearing will be the legality of the tow.
If the hearing officers determine the SFPD tow was improper and the vehicle has already been retrieved from the impound lot, the matter will be referred to the SFMTA for a refund.
If you require further assistance, you may file a claim against the City and County of San Francisco. For more information about filing a claim, please visit the Office of the City Attorney. https://www.sfcityattorney.org/claims/
How to claim repossessed vehicles:
If your vehicle has been repossessed, please be aware SFPD has small involvement in this issue.
Vehicle owners must go to the Court Liasion Office located at 850 Bryant Street Room #511 and pay a $15 fee acceptable by cash only.
The Court Liasion Office is open Monday through Friday 9 AM - 5 PM. Their main office number is (415) 553-1192.
This is the only location to address this matter. Police Stations and the Legal Office at Police Headquarters will be unable to assist.
If your car was towed by SFMTA:
Visit the SFMTA website for further information on their appeal process or contact them at:
SFMTA Customer Service Center
11 South Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94103
Find more Frequently Asked Questions about Your Vehicle Towing Rights.