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Washington State unmarked patrol car pull you over legal or illegal??

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I am trying to find some info about this cause I cant find it anywhere. My friends and I were on our cruisers the other day and got pulled over by an unmarked dodge charger police vehicle and gave us a ticket for speeding, we are totally fine with the ticket but we have heard from people an finding videos that it is illegal for a unmarked police vehicle to pull you over an give you a ticket because people can easily do this and replicate police officers. We are just trying to figure out if this is legal in washington state if an unmarked police vehicle can pull you over an give you a ticket or if it is illegal. We were in Clallam County and the car was a Dodge charger and the only indications that it was a police vehicle was that it had lights in the grill and visors. Any info would gladly be appreciated on the matter. Thanks 

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It is not illegal for an officer in an unmarked car to pull you over and give you a ticket. You of course will want to verify that the person is indeed a police officer. But assuming it was, there is no good challenge to make to the citation based on the car not being marked. You may be penalized for failing to pull over for the officer even if it is not a marked car. The requirement is that the car must be equipped with lights and a siren and the officer must be in uniform for that penalty to apply. See RCW 46.61.024(1). Thus, the statute contemplates that some stops will be made by officers in unmarked cars. 

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we have heard from people an finding videos that it is illegal for a unmarked police vehicle to pull you over an give you a ticket

 

Unless these people and videos cite a provision in the Revised Code of Washington (or some other applicable law) that supports what they claim, you should assume that they are wrong.  Moreover, as you described it, the vehicle was not, in fact, "unmarked."

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alias 778971

 

Thank you for your post.  The answer to your question depends on if lights and a grill amount to being "marked" for purposes of the statute provided above. The replies to this post along with this article should shed some light on the subject:

 

Guy Pulls Over Deputy for Illegal Unmarked Cop Car. Was He Right? Are Unmarked Police Cars Legal?

 

If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.

-The Findlaw.com Team

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On ‎6‎/‎8‎/‎2015 at 9:42 AM, pg1067 said:

 

Unless these people and videos cite a provision in the Revised Code of Washington (or some other applicable law) that supports what they claim, you should assume that they are wrong.

https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.08.065

(1) It is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle owned or controlled by any county, city, town, or public body in this state other than the state of Washington and used in public business to operate the same upon the public highways of this state unless and until there shall be displayed upon such automobile or other motor vehicle in letters of contrasting color not less than one and one-quarter inches in height in a conspicuous place on the right and left sides thereof, the name of such county, city, town, or other public body, together with the name of the department or office upon the business of which the said vehicle is used. This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes....

...

(3) Subsection (2) of this section shall not apply to vehicles used by the Washington state patrol for general undercover or confidential investigative purposes....

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As with any law, there can arise issues of interpretation.  

Let's start from the beginning:

"It is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle owned or controlled by any county, city, town, or public body in this state....."

 

There are more government bodies within the civil infrastructure that use government/county/company owned vehicles outside of just law enforcement.  Public health departments, utility departments, child protective services, etc.... these are just a couple examples. 

 

Next:

"This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes...."

 

My interpretation of this is just the same as stated in the above article.  The section does not apply to the sheriff's office.  It does not apply to local police departments.  As for the third listing - vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority - I take that to mean other departments given the authority to conduct special undercover or confidential investigations.  FBI for instance would be an organization that comes to mind.  

 

As stated earlier, this is my interpretation.  I could be dead on, or I could be wrong.  It doesn't affect me at the end of the day, but thought I would state my opinion anyway. 

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Cfisher34, while your opinion appears to be correct, you've latched on to an almost 4 month old post (it's called necro-posting), parroted the opinion of two attorneys (tax-counsel and PG1067) for no apparent reason and wasted the time of everybody who now has to re-read the thread. Very annoying. Please refrain from doing that on old threads. Otherwise your opinions are welcome on more up-to-date postings.

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No They are not allowed to pull you over for traffic enforcement as undercover law enforcement. You can check out the full RCW here https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.08.065

RCW 46.08.065

Publicly owned vehicles to be marked—Exceptions.

(1) It is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle owned or controlled by any county, city, town, or public body in this state other than the state of Washington and used in public business to operate the same upon the public highways of this state unless and until there shall be displayed upon such automobile or other motor vehicle in letters of contrasting color not less than one and one-quarter inches in height in a conspicuous place on the right and left sides thereof, the name of such county, city, town, or other public body, together with the name of the department or office upon the business of which the said vehicle is used. This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.

 

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11 minutes ago, mrsfloppy said:

This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.

I think you, as well at the people 4 years ago missed this part.

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On 4/27/2017 at 8:20 AM, adjusterjack said:

Cfisher34, while your opinion appears to be correct, you've latched on to an almost 4 month old post (it's called necro-posting), parroted the opinion of two attorneys (tax-counsel and PG1067) for no apparent reason and wasted the time of everybody who now has to re-read the thread. Very annoying. Please refrain from doing that on old threads. Otherwise your opinions are welcome on more up-to-date postings.

Your post indicates the naiveté regarding online search, and the purpose of public threads.

while the post may be old, this information has significant value to the many thousands of people who click on the search link while trying to obtain information, as long as the post is still up and viewable.

Please keep that under consideration prior to making short sighted comments that don't help in any way.

 

as for interpretation:

On 5/7/2017 at 0:20 PM, doucar said:

This section shall not apply to vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police department, or any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes.

I believe that the separation with commas, instead of closing a sentence with a period, would lead a person to reasonably conclude that sherrifs, local police, and public authorities are exempt if operating in special undercover or investigative assignments.   A traffic stop is hardly a special undercover purpose!

i would suggest anyone who's facing this situation, please challenge the citation in court and help establish case law! 

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2 hours ago, kuhnrider said:

I believe that the separation with commas, instead of closing a sentence with a period, would lead a person to reasonably conclude that sherrifs, local police, and public authorities are exempt if operating in special undercover or investigative assignments.   A traffic stop is hardly a special undercover purpose!

 

I might agree with you had the sentence not made two different references to vehicles, separated by “or”. But since it did, it appears that the statute excludes two groups of vehicles: (1) vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police police department or (2)

any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes. Even if your construction is correct, you seem to take the view that police cannot conduct undercover traffic operations. What reasoning do you have to support that? What makes traffic so different from any other criminal activity that police would be precluded from conducting undercover operations?

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On 5/11/2017 at 10:44 AM, Tax_Counsel said:

 

I might agree with you had the sentence not made two different references to vehicles, separated by “or”. But since it did, it appears that the statute excludes two groups of vehicles: (1) vehicles of a sheriff's office, local police police department or (2)

any vehicles used by local peace officers under public authority for special undercover or confidential investigative purposes. Even if your construction is correct, you seem to take the view that police cannot conduct undercover traffic operations. What reasoning do you have to support that? What makes traffic so different from any other criminal activity that police would be precluded from conducting undercover operations?

 

     With the two commas, each one separating a department, followed by "or" simply, or maybe not so simply, defines the group to be subjected to, in this instance, the parameters of exemption to the otherwise required markings on the department vehicles.  I'm fairly certain of that. You bring up an interesting point though pertaining to an assumption of crimes and traffic citatations being treated differently.  I would argue that they are not to be treated the same since a citation must be specified either traffic or criminal. Furthermore the unmarked exemption states for undercover work and investigations. Undercover work is done to collect information to intercept a crime while an investigation is done to collect evidence of a crime that has been committed. A traffic citation is issued for a moving violation, not a crime. A traffic citation requires an officers statement of the violation along with anything used to observe the violation but it does not require an investigation. Based on that and a common mans reasonable understanding of RCW 46.08.065 it is my opinion traffic stops by unmarked vehicles are not legal and I feel pretty confident that the courts would agree and deem those stops illegal. 

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The law states that groups A B or C are exempt for reason Y.  

 

Clearly, the intent of the law, as written, is to allow police the use of unmarked vehicles for undercover or special investigations, and those purposes ONLY.

 

Anyone who paid attention in 4th grade during sentence diagramming can clearly see this.

 

So, unless you are the subject of an ongoing undercover or special (which could have broad meaning but does not encompass a split second decision to pull you over or not pull you over for a traffic violation) investigation and you are pulled over by ANY police officer who is in an unmarked car (and, the standards for "marking" are clearly called in the statute as well, and lights and a grill commonly used by police do not meet the standard), THAT OFFICER IS ACTING UNLAWFULLY (this is stated at the beginning of the statute).

 

I would not cooperate with the officer, which could lead to my arrest, but that would give me an immediate chance to fight the unlawful behavior by the officer.

 

Now, am I guaranteed a win in court?  No, but should I be granted a probable cause hearing by a judge who is fluent in English and has some modicum of respect for the law, I should easily find my motion granted and the case dropped.  

 

The real trick would be convincing the judge to then issue a warrant for the officers arrest (unlawful detainment among other things).  I don't think my chances here would be more than 1 in a metric **** ton, but I would remind the judge how many times I've been told that ignorance of the law is not a defense, and that illegal is illegal no matter who perpetrates the crime.

 

I'm pretty sure I'll get laughed out of court as the prosecutor has his or her tail between their legs, having been quickly bested by someone without a bar card, but with some sense of satisfaction that I was mocked on my way out of court.

 

At least that's what's happened the 3 other times I had cases dismissed in motions court, pro se.

 

I swear, lawyers are great with procedure and sometimes their familiarity with the judges and clerks has value, but they are the only people who know less about the actual law than I do.

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On 7/19/2019 at 10:04 PM, Prisoner382 said:

the "experts" who answered were demonstrably wrong

 

Then please demonstrate why we were wrong.  Your post cited no statutory or case law, so you've demonstrated nothing other than an ability to state a contrary opinion.

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