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Reading https://ktla.com/news/local-news/carpool-violator-busted-in-southern-california-despite-next-level-dummy/amp/ (mirror) made me wonder: is it illegal to have a fake passenger (e.g., a mannequin) to try to avoid HOV violation detection?

Clearly, there would be a citation for HOV violation due to the lack of passengers, but I wonder if the fact of having the fake passenger is another independent offense in itself.

I'm mostly interested in the USA, and especially Washington State and California, but I'm curious about other locations as well.


Example from the article:

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    People in The Netherlands did this systematically, during the short and aborted attempt to have HOV lanes, before courts ruled against such restrictions.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 29 at 6:40
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    It does certainly reduce any efficacy of certain defenses if you were to go to court with it. It is hard to argue it was not on purpose or somehow not premeditated.
    – Stian
    Commented Apr 29 at 9:33
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    A friend of mine used to keep a mannequin in her passenger seat. Her reasoning was nothing to do with HOV lanes, but as a deterrent against opportunistic car-jacking. Whether it ever deterred anyone is of no consequence, what it did do is make her and family more confident about driving alone.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Apr 29 at 9:59
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    Like fraud..... Commented Apr 29 at 11:01

2 Answers 2

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Washington RCW 46.61.165 4(b) imposes an additional fine for using a dummy or doll in an attempt to fake the requirements of HOV lane usage:

(b) Any time a person commits a traffic infraction under this section and is using a dummy, doll, or other human facsimile to make it appear that an additional person is in the vehicle, the person must be assessed a $200 penalty, which is in addition to the penalties in (a) of this subsection.

And while other states may not have an explicit law against it, judicial discretion can lead to a higher than normal penalty for premeditation, if you are unwise enough to try to fight the ticket.

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  • Follow-up question, do I get fined more if I have multiple dummies (probably not and I wanted to make this a joke, but English is my second language and I genuinely don't know if "an additional person" could conceivably mean "per additional fake person" instead of "one or more additional fake persons") ? Commented Apr 29 at 16:17
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    By that definition a cadaver would be legal. Commented Apr 29 at 16:17
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    I'm pretty sure driving around with a cadaver in the passenger seat would be illegal for plenty of reasons unrelated to HOV lane usage. Commented Apr 29 at 18:11
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    @EikePierstorff: It is somewhat open to interpretation, but I think the better reading is that you get one fine per "time" that you do this, not one per dummy. Because some states have 3+ HOV lanes (i.e. lanes that require at least three people in the car), it is conceivable that someone might try using multiple dummies.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:24
  • @EikePierstorff by the plain English reading, yes. "An additional person". Though you'd probably have to P.O. the cop pros or judge to have that happen.
    – cde
    Commented Apr 30 at 17:55
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I think you have answered your own question.

Since you know that it is a HOV violation, you know you are breaking the law. If you commit an HOV violation with the mannequin, you are just doing it with a mannequin. There is no substantial difference there. There is no reason for a jurisdiction to make a new offense if it is a HOV violation either way. You would get the same ticket no matter how you violated the statute, so there is no need for a new law.

As shown in the other answer here, some jurisdictions may impose a different penalty for using the mannequin, but it would be a subsection of the same law, with different penalties. This prevents numerous laws that are essentially the same with minor differences from being on the books.

Other countries may have different rules though.

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    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 29 at 22:07

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