Is it legal for an Officer to pull you over if they are in an unmarked car in Washington State?
The short answer: Yes. It is allowed by statute.
Officers from all jurisdictions may pull you over when they are in an unmarked car.Washington State Patrol, County Deputies and Local Police Agencies may patrol and pull over individuals when in unmarked cars. This is contrary to what a lot of people believe in Counties such as Kitsap, Pierce, Mason and Jefferson. Over the last year, we have heard this statement more than a dozen times. "He can't pull me over, he was in an unmarked car! You can get that ticket thrown out!" People hear that claim so often that they start to believe it is true. It is even portrayed as true in social media. The rumor's origins are from RCW 46.08.065 which does in part say that "[i]t is unlawful for any public officer having charge of any vehicle ... to operate the same ... unless and until there shall be displayed upon such automobile ...the name of such county, city, town ... together with the name of the department or office ... of which the said vehicle is used." I understand that this is tempting to bite on, especially in Counties like Kitsap and Pierce where unmarked cars are pulling everyone over. For the purpose or laying the conspiracy theories to rest - yes they can patrol and pull you over in unmarked cars. The Statute gives them specific authority. As much as I would like this theory to be true, the theory is deflated by verbiage in sections (1) & (3). Buried in the long paragraph of section (1), it states that "[t]his 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." Section (3) also states that vehicles used by the Washington State Patrol are exempted for general undercover, confidential investigative purposes or traffic control purposes. For undercover use for traffic control purposes, there just must be approval by the WSP Chief. Lastly, there is a provision in the WAC that allows for nearly all state agencies to obtain undercover and confidential license plates for their official vehicles. While we love to hear a good defense theory, we just had to let the air out of this one. So the last thing you want to do is take the smug approach with the officer and ridicule him and yell about how you will expose the whole scam in Court! You will lose, and you will probably look like a jerk.