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Suppose there were an eccentric millionaire who really wants people to drive safely around her. Could she make a fake police car and drive around in it? She would never pull anyone over or directly impersonate an officer - just a fake car.

It’s obviously not a good idea, but in looking at the law against impersonating an officer, it only seems to cover fake clothing and fake identification. Is there any law that could be used to prevent a fake car?

I know there are some vehicle codes that say civilians can’t have sirens, but let’s just say the siren is fake too.

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    The short answer is "yes" it is illegal to do so. Finding chapter and verse would take a little while and I may or may not be the one to answer it.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 24, 2021 at 3:38
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    In many places there are rules around the lights that would forbid police-like lights as well...but if they're not actually lights, maybe. This hypothetical person's best bet would be 1) no working red/blue lights or sirens, 2) nothing that says "police". I often see private security vehicles with many police car-like attributes in CA, such as lights (not red/blue). Not sure about Oregon, though.
    – Ryan M
    Feb 24, 2021 at 4:35
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    Example: Germany bans any non fire brigade, police or medical emergency transportation vehicle from having blue sirens mounted while in operation on public roads. Via the vehicle registration law StVZO.
    – Trish
    Feb 24, 2021 at 8:04
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    california: A co-worker bought an ex-police car, with black/white paint. The local police force asked him to repaint it so it couldn't be mistaken for a police car even though it had no logos, lights, antennas, etc. He just painted it all black.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 24, 2021 at 20:58
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    @phoog in Germany either light or sound actually. If your car can make the official sound and/or light, it is not street legal unless it's an emergency response vehicle owned by police or other similar services.
    – Trish
    Feb 25, 2021 at 20:25

3 Answers 3

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The problem is that the law enforcement authorities could easily contend that the simple fact of a police car on the road projects the power and authority of law enforcement, and if a car was built and driven by someone who is not an officer, that would constitute impersonation because people would assume only a police officer would be driving a police car. The police could cite the driver for impersonation; the merits of the case could be decided in court, but it's speculation on what conclusion would be made.

There's always the fact that Oregon law could be quickly amended to outlaw personal or custom vehicles which simply appear to be law enforcement vehicles, if the legislature saw the need in response to police requests or requests from the public.

Current Oregon law can already interpreted to include those who impersonate the police in a vehicle. There are several recent news articles:

One from ktvl.com:

Anyone caught impersonating an officer is facing a Class C felony charge, with potentially up to three years in prison.

And another: Police impersonator pulls over Oregon driver, turns himself in - oregonlive.com:

...turned himself in to police on Friday evening, OSP said in a release. He was cited and released for criminal impersonation of a public servant and disorderly conduct.

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    These people did things like pull people over that the OP excluded. This doesn't really address whether just having a fake police car would be illegal.
    – Ryan M
    Feb 24, 2021 at 4:35
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In many areas, police might prefer to drive a certain car model, painted in a certain colour. Of course people know that and if a car that resembles a police car is spotted in the distance their driving might improve.

You would likely be free to buy that car model in the same colour. Anyone spotting you from a distance might drive more carefully. Once they are near you, your car should be obviously not look like a police car.

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  • Police markings are quite distinct usually. You can't get those on the free market.
    – Trish
    Mar 7, 2021 at 11:10
  • Something that looks convincing from nearby, you're right. Something that looks suspiciously like a police car from 80 meters in your back mirror, where you're not sure but you don't want to take the risk - that's doable. Basically there is some degree of similarity that you can achieve legally, and then there's a higher degree that is hard to achieve and possibly illegal.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:34
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In a civil car can have neither a working blue light ($52(3) STVZO) nor a siren (§55(3) STVZO): A car without a blue light may not have a siren, a car that takes part in traffic and isn't on the list can't have blue lights. According to §52(3) blue light while in traffic is exclusive to:

  1. police, military police, federal police, customs, transportation authorities, and federal air accident investigation
  2. dispatch/command fire departments, catastrophe response, and medical rescue
  3. Special cars for emergencies on tram rails
  4. medical rescue vehicles for transporting injured and ill people.

It is allowed to own a car with proper police markings - and if you cover up the marking Polizei and other badges and remove the siren/lightbar, it is allowed to drive it on public roads. However, such a car is only allowed to have all the markings fully visible on private property or with special license (e.g. for a film). Parking a fully equipped car on the road, especially with fake police tags (code-letters and 5 numerals) is highly illegal.

It is allowed to have a non-functional siren and blue-light mounted as long as you don't have the other markings. For example, an otherwise almost complete car with the tags Brauerei (brewery) or Kanzlei (law office) have been allowed by german courts - the latter after it hat permanently disabled the blue light. As was Police (on german roads!). But Pozilei (The word Polizei words jumbled) was explicitly too close together with other markings and the car had to be altered.

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