2022

LEGISLATE VIRTUAL CONGRESS

IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

April 14, 2022

AN ACT

An Act to Prevent Unmarked Vehicles from Initiating Traffic Stops

This bill aims to improve the safety and security of Delaware citizens by preventing the initiation of routine traffic stops using vehicles not clearly bearing the markings of the police agency under which it is operating.

Introduced By:

Date Introduced:

Referred to:

Arjan Kahlon

April 14, 2022, 7:06:28 PM

Transportation, Rules and Regulations

Under current Delaware statute, motorists are expected to both yield and stop, if indicated, for any vehicle bearing emergency lights, regardless of its marking. While the former allows vehicles operated by police, fire, and other emergency departments to reach the scene of life-threatening situations quickly, the latter poses a threat of similar magnitude to Delaware citizens when it is illegally exploited to gain a driver's trust and display a false badge of authority. This legislation aims to amend Delaware regulations so that citizens must still yield to vehicles presenting activated emergency lighting but are not required to put themselves at risk of harm should the vehicle attempt to initiate a traffic stop.

Vehicles not clearly bearing the markings of a police agency but equipped with emergency lights nevertheless are used both legally by police agencies for operations requiring discreetness, and improperly by police impersonators. The latter group has been known to abuse emergency lighting illegally installed on their own private vehicles to stop unsuspecting motorists, who are then made the target of violent crimes at gunpoint. Victims of roadside robberies and carjackings are commonly left without proper clothing or their phone, leaving them vulnerable to temperature-related injury and the dangers of being abandoned on the side of a roadway. Unluckier victims are often even kidnapped, often leading to sex and child trafficking. Because these vehicles fail to clearly indicate the agency under which they are operating, innocent citizens fall prey to such deception frequently without any sort of warning that something is amiss. Banning traffic stops by unmarked vehicles and educating citizens about the new legislation will greatly reduce the volume of such crimes happening on Delaware's roadways.

Dozens of states across the nation, from New York to California, have adopted similar policies to protect the safety of their roadways.

BE IT ENACTED BY LEGISLATE SENATORS VIRTUALLY ASSEMBLED THAT

Glossary of Terms:

Marked vehicle - any motor vehicle operated on behalf of a police agency that is equipped with flashing lights and sirens and clearly bears the word “police” or “trooper” such that it is visible on all 4 sides of the vehicle from a sufficient distance under daytime and nighttime lighting. These markings shall be sized and colored so as to provide sufficient contrast with the body panels of the vehicle on which they are painted, to ensure that the markings are visible from all angles.

Unmarked vehicle - any motor vehicle operated on behalf of a police agency that fails to meet the requirements of a marked vehicle.

Officer - any agent of a local, county, or state police department operating a motor vehicle on behalf of the department.

Traffic stop (colloquially referred to as “pulling over”) - any instance in which an officer prompts a driver to stop their motor vehicle so the officer can investigate a suspected offense further, or so the officer can issue a warning or ticket for an offense already committed.

Traffic or moving violation - any traffic or moving violation as defined by the Delaware DMV as assessable for a point value, including those contained in Title 21, Chapters 27, 41, and 42 of the Delaware Code, with the exception of suspected substance-related offenses (such as a DUI) as defined by Title 21, Chapter 41, Subchapter IX, § 4177.

Unless they are operating a marked vehicle, officers shall not initiate a traffic stop on suspicion of an unregistered or unlicensed driver or motor vehicle, traffic or moving violation as defined above, or due to the vehicle not meeting DMV standards of operation (unless the condition of such a vehicle poses an immediate and life-threatening risk to the driver or the public).

This legislation does NOT prevent officers from pursuing or attempting a traffic stop on suspects after the commission or suspected commission of any crime not detailed above, or any suspects fleeing or resisting arrest (including after an attempted traffic stop), or suspects failing to yield to any vehicle with flashing lights and/or sirens activated, marked or unmarked.

When approached by an unmarked vehicle presenting activated flashing lights and/or sirens, motorists are still required to yield to the unmarked vehicle. If the unmarked vehicle attempts to initiate a traffic stop on the motorist, the motorist should call 911 immediately to dispatch an officer with a marked vehicle, enable their hazard lights to acknowledge their intention to stop, and stop only in a well-lit public area to ensure their safety. If the officer operating the unmarked vehicle issues any tickets, warnings, penalties, or other citations to a motorist on account of a traffic or moving violation, the motorist may file a report with the officer’s department to have the citation and its consequences nullified and expunged from the motorist’s record.

Punishments:

Police departments whose officers are noncompliant with this legislation shall have their next year’s funding reduced by $2,500 for a first offense, $4,500 for a second offense, $7,500 for a third offense, and $10,000 for each further offense. Officers noncompliant with this legislation may be subject to disciplinary action in any manner determined appropriate by their department, including, but not limited to, the reduction of pay and/or working hours, and/or the termination of the officer’s employment.

Enforcement:

Upon receipt of a report describing behavior in violation of this statute from any member of the public or the department, or upon observation or determination of such behavior by the department itself, a police department is subject to, and may pursue, penalties as set forth in Section V: Penalties.

Enactment:

An Act to Prevent Unmarked Vehicles from Initiating Traffic Stops

will go into effect on

January 1, 2023, 5:00:00 AM

This bill shall go into effect on January 1st, 2023, following passage as law.