Who Has the Authority to Confiscate a Driver’s License During a Normal Traffic Violation?

The short answer: the Land Transportation Office (LTO)  issues driver’s licenses, so only the LTO can take them away. The authority to confiscate a driver’s license during a normal traffic violation lies solely with the LTO and the law enforcement and peace officers duly deputized by the agency, as per Republic Act 4136. Exceptions exist only in cases involving injury or death due to a traffic violation, where local traffic officers may confiscate licenses if deputized by the LTO. All other agencies, including the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), and even the local government units (LGUs), lack the authority to confiscate licenses.

As the primary governing body for land transportation, the LTO plays a pivotal role in regulating and enforcing road safety measures. From granting driving privileges to enforcing compliance, the LTO’s mandate encompasses the entirety of the licensing process, emphasizing its pivotal role in maintaining road safety standards. Let’s take a closer look at this authority. 

Who Has the Authority to Confiscate a Driver's License During a Normal Traffic Violation

LTO: The Sole Authority

The LTO stands as the primary authority in matters concerning driver’s licenses. As per Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code), only law enforcement and peace officers duly deputized by the Director of the LTO have the power to confiscate a driver’s license during a violation. This includes violations of local traffic rules and regulations not contrary to any provisions of RA 4136.

The law also gives the LTO clear powers to handle driver’s licenses, including issuing, confiscating, suspending, revoking, or reinstating them. To avoid clashes with local government units (LGUs), you may refer to RA 4136, Section 62, which clearly states that LGUs cannot make rules that contradict this law.

Who Can Confiscate Licenses Under Normal Violations

The basic is clear: only the LTO can confiscate a driver’s license. This power does not extend to traffic police, including the Highway Patrol Group, nor to traffic officers, enforcers, or aides of cities, provinces, and towns, including the MMDA. Even the Department of Interior and Local Government DILG) has released a memo saying the same. The only exception arises when these individuals are deputized as LTO agents.

Whether an officer is LTO-deputized or not is easy to check. After all, only LTO-deputized enforcers hold mission orders outlining their authority, responsibilities, and functions. These orders specify whether they are authorized to issue tickets or confiscate licenses. A Temporary Operator’s Permit (TOP) serves as a receipt when a license is confiscated, indicating that only duly deputized officials have this authority.

Limitations of Other Agencies

While agencies like the MMDA may issue traffic citations, they lack the authority to confiscate licenses unless deputized by the LTO. Similarly, local government units (LGUs) do not possess the authority to confiscate licenses, as upheld by a legal opinion from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and exemplified by the 1995 MMDA-Garin case, a case when an MMDA traffic enforcer confiscated the license of a motorist, lawyer Dante Garin, and gave him a traffic violation receipt for illegal parking.

Conflicts when it comes to implementation may arise between the authority of LGUs and the LTO. But, as the law says, the LTO holds the sole power to confiscate licenses. While LGUs possess the power to enact road safety rules, these ordinances must align with national laws and LTO regulations. It’s essential to maintain harmony between local and national legislation to ensure effective enforcement of road regulations without conflicting mandates.

Exceptions to the Rule

Naturally, like every other law, there’s always an exception. Exceptions to the LTO’s sole authority also do exist, particularly in cases involving injury or death due to a traffic violation. In such instances, local traffic officers may confiscate a driver’s license and issue a Temporary Operator’s Permit (TOP). However, this action is permissible only when these officers are deputized by the LTO.

Video: Who may Confiscate your Driver’s License

For a better understanding of the authorities at play when it comes to who should hold on to your driver’s license during traffic violations or accidents, you may check out this video from SaxOnWheels MotoVlog:


Simply put, the LTO holds the authority to confiscate driver’s licenses during normal traffic violations. Exceptions exist for deputized officials and in cases involving injury or death. Other than these, no one else can confiscate your license. Understanding these will help you protect your rights in case you get into trouble while on the road.

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