Towed Vehicle Information

Towed Vehicles

tow-truck.jpgAll vehicles towed by order of the SFPD require an SFPD Vehicle Release before the vehicle ca be released to the registered owner or person in lawful posession of the vehicle. You may be required to submit a Hold Harmless Agreement.

Generally, vehicles towed for parking violations, non-injury collisions, or recovered stolen vehicles can be retrieved immediately at Auto Return (San Francisco's Contracted tow company). However, vehicle owners must obtain a vehicle release, prior to attempting to retrieve the vehicle. The registered owner or person in lawful possession must respond to the nearest police station with your driver's license and proof or ownership if the vehicle is not registered to the driver. After all information is verified, the officer will issue a vehicle release form to the owner of the vehicle or a person in lawful possession of the vehicle. A vehicle release form is required for a vehicle to be release from the tow yard.

Once the SFPD has issued an SFPD vehicle release, you may appear at Auto Return to pay any fees and retrieve the vehicle. The city's authorized tow service provider, Auto Return, will verify all required conditions of release are met; prior to the release of any vehicle.

Auto Return
450 7th Street (between Harrison St. and Bryant St. around the corner from the Hall of Justice)
San Francisco, CA 94103

Visit the Auto Return website

If Your Car Was Towed by SFPD for S.T.O.P.

If your car was towed because the driver was unlicensed or had a suspended license, please go to 850 Bryant Street, Room 154 for a vehicle release.

If you are the registered owner of the vehicle but not the driver at the time of the tow, and have a valid California driver's license, it may be possible to obtain your vehicle immediately by going to a tow hearing at :

The Hall of Justice
850 Bryant Street, Room 154

The hours for tow hearings are as follows:

  • Mon thru Fri 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Don't change the registration into another persons name after the tow or the vehicle will remain impounded for the entire 30 days.

An administrative fee will be assessed to towed vehicles. This fee does not apply toward the towing and storage fees charged by the Auto Return. This fee applies to all vehicles towed incident to an arrest.

If Your Car Was Towed by SFPD for A Criminal Investigation

If your vehicle was towed for an ongoing criminal investigation, the investigating sergeant must remove any holds on the vehicle, before the vehicle can be release. Once the hold has been removed, you are required to go to 850 Bryant Street, Room 154 for a vehicle release.

If Your Parked Car Was Towed by SFPD

In addition to unlicensed driver tows, the STOP counter now hears appeals from owners of cars towed by the Police Department for parking violations. The hours and procedure for Police parking tow appeals are the same.

Owners of towed vehicles must appeal the Police Parking Tow within 30 days of the tow or else forfeit their right to a hearing. In cases where the hearing officers determine that the vehicle was improperly towed by the Police Department, the City Controller will take approximately 30 days to issue a refund check.

If Your Car Was Towed by SFMTA

Visit the SFMTA website for instructions and requirements.

SFMTA Customer Service Center
11 South Van Ness, San Francisco, CA 94103

Police Tow Hearings

If your vehicle has been towed by the San Francisco Police Department for any reason, you are permitted a Tow Hearing to determine the Validity of that tow. You must request a tow hearing within 10 days of your vehicle's tow. You can request a hearing by mail or in person.

To request a hearing by mail, download the Request for Tow Hearing, available here and mail to:

SFPD Traffic Company
2345 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94158

Please include with your Request for Tow Hearing any documents you would like the Tow Hearing Officer to consider in determining the validity of the tow.

In person tow hearings are conducted on a "drop-in" basis Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM at:

The Hall of Justice
850 Bryant Street, Room 154
San Francisco, CA 94102

The Tow Hearing Officer will make a determination whether the towing of your vehicle was lawfully conducted per the California Vehicle Code. If the tow was improper, you will be granted a waiver or refund of tow fees. If the tow was proper and permitted by law, there will be no waiver or refund of fees. Financial hardship is not a valid reason for appeal. The only issue heard is the legality of the tow.

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.