Are Undercover Police Cars Illegal in New York?
Can you get pulled over for a traffic violation by an unmarked police car in New York State?
There are a few things that can happen in a day that can turn a good day into a bad day quickly. One of the most popular ways that can happen is while you are driving along and all of a sudden you look into your rearview mirror and see the red, white, and or blue lights (depending on who's pulling you over) shining in your eyes. Yes, you are being pulled over but if the police car is unmarked with just lights are they breaking the law by pulling you over?
Undercover Police Cars in New York
First, let's start with some advice! We are by no means law experts, so we don't suggest using anything you are about to read in your legal defense at your next traffic court appearance. Often police in New York will use undercover cars to conceal their identity while they are conducting police business. Investigations, stakeout, and "stings" are common words police use to describe things they do while driving in an unmarked car but can one pull you over and give you a traffic ticket in New York?
Can Unmarked Police Cars Pull Over New York Drivers?
The short answer is YES, undercover cars can pull over a driver in New York, but over the last 20+ years, the rules surrounding the use of undercover cop cars in New York have changed a couple of times. In April of 1996, then-New York Governor George Pataki issued an Executive Order (35) that said,
"unmarked police vehicles of the State of New York could no longer be used for the routine stopping of motorists in connection with traffic violations."
That order was signed into law in 1996 after numerous New Yorkers were "victimized by criminals" who allegedly used unmarked cars to impersonate police officers according to the New York Senate website. The executive order was later revoked by David A. Paterson and Andrew M. Cuomo however, according to the Legal Beagle website,
"the law was changed in 2021 to prohibit the routine use of unmarked police vehicles and to prevent undercover police officers to stop, question or apprehend drivers for violations of the vehicle code or traffic laws."
The World Population Review website listed the rules for unmarked cop cars in every state and for New York, "police in unmarked vehicles can patrol and observe traffic but should radio marked vehicles to complete traffic stops. Exceptions are permitted when public safety is threatened." It appears that most departments in New York don't use undercover cars for traffic stops but to play things on the safe side the best way to avoid any confusion is to simply follow the traffic rules while you drive in New York.
If you are a police officer or someone who might be able to explain the undercover police car rules in New York, email me at CJ@HUDSONVALLEYCOUNTRY.COM. I might use your information for an upcoming article.
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