Is it Against Washington State Law to Have Unmarked Cars?

September 21, 2022 - 12:27 pm - 3 min read

When it comes to law enforcement in the state of Washington, there are certain regulations that must be followed in order to ensure the safety of citizens and the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts. One of the most common questions that arises in relation to this topic is whether or not it is against Washington state law to have unmarked cars. In this article, we will delve into the specifics surrounding this issue, examining both the legal guidelines and practical implications of unmarked cars.

Washington State Law on Unmarked Cars

As it stands, Washington state law allows for law enforcement agencies to use unmarked cars, provided that they adhere to certain guidelines. According to RCW (Revised Code of Washington) 46.08.065, unmarked vehicles utilized by law enforcement agencies must have at least one red or blue light visible from any direction, and must be equipped with sirens or other audible signals. In addition, any unmarked cars used for law enforcement purposes must be registered as such with the state Department of Licensing.

It’s worth noting that this law applies specifically to law enforcement agencies within the state of Washington, and not to federal agencies or other entities that may operate within the state. Overall, the goal of the law is to ensure that law enforcement vehicles are readily identifiable as such, even if they are not marked in the traditional sense.

The Practical Implications of Unmarked Cars

While using unmarked cars for law enforcement purposes is allowed under Washington state law, it’s important to consider the practical implications of such vehicles. One of the main reasons that law enforcement agencies may opt to use unmarked cars is for undercover operations or surveillance, as unmarked cars can blend in more easily with the general population. Additionally, unmarked cars may be useful for apprehending suspects who are attempting to flee or evade law enforcement efforts.

On the flip side, there are potential downsides to using unmarked cars, particularly when it comes to public perception. Unmarked cars can create confusion or alarm for regular citizens who may not immediately recognize that they are being pulled over by a police officer. Additionally, there is the potential for criminals to impersonate law enforcement officers by utilizing unmarked cars, which could lead to dangerous situations.

Another factor worth considering is the financial cost of unmarked cars. While on the surface it may seem less expensive to utilize unmarked cars for law enforcement purposes, the reality is that these vehicles often require specialized equipment and maintenance, which can incur additional costs.


In conclusion, while it is legal for law enforcement agencies within the state of Washington to use unmarked cars, there are specific guidelines that must be followed in order to ensure that they are readily identifiable as law enforcement vehicles. While unmarked cars can offer certain advantages in terms of surveillance and apprehension of suspects, they also come with potential downsides, such as confusion for the public and increased financial costs. Ultimately, it is up to each individual law enforcement agency to weigh the pros and cons of using unmarked cars and make a decision that best serves their specific needs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *