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Bill Would Prohibit Washington Cops From Stopping Drivers For Most Misdemeanor Warrants, ‘Nonmoving’ Traffic Violations

Olympia, WA – The Washington state legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit law enforcement officers from pulling drivers over for misdemeanor court orders or certain nonmoving traffic violations.

Proponents of House Bill 1513, dubbed the “Traffic Safety For All” bill, claim the proposed law change would increase public safety and combat racial inequalities, according to KING.

The bill would block police from stopping drivers for most misdemeanor warrants, “nonmoving” violations like broken headlights, expired vehicle registration, or for other equipment failures that might not pose an imminent threat to safety on the roadway.

According to the bill, it is more important to focus “enforcement resources on high-risk behavior such as impaired driving, distracted driving, unrestrained passengers, and speeding.”

Changing current practices will also reduce “biased traffic stops,” according to the measure.

“National and local data show that high discretion, low-risk traffic violations, including those that are unrelated to road safety, fall disproportionately on black, brown, and indigenous road users, as well as low-income road users and people with older vehicles,” the bill reads.

“Biased traffic stops result in a decreased sense of safety for all road users and law enforcement,” according to the bill.

The law change would also establish a “grant program” intended to “support local initiatives that provide solution-oriented responses to nonmoving violations for low-income road users,” such as fee offset programs, helmet vouchers, repair vouchers, and “fix-it tickets.”

Under the proposed law change, officers who pull people over for equipment violations that present “an immediate, serious threat” to the driver or others would need to digitally log or notify dispatch about the reason for the stop before the stop is initiated.

They would also need to provide “a detailed description of the immediate, serious threat” warranting the stop.

Under the bill, officers would be prohibited from asking for a consent to search the vehicle or any occupants during traffic stops.

“The peace officer may not question the operator or any passenger of the vehicle on a subject other than the equipment failure violation that initiated the stop, unless the peace officer sees evidence in plain view that establishes reasonable suspicion sufficient to question the operator about an independent criminal offense,” the bill reads.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities increase when law enforcement officers back off of the number of safety-related citations they issue, KING reported.

Opponents argue that nonmoving violations were created for a reason and can cut down on the number of safety hazards out on the roadway.

“Each one of those laws has a family’s name next to it where they probably lost a loved one,” Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs spokesperson Jeff DeVere told KING.

He said the organization has “large concerns” with the bill.

Washington State Patrol Captain Neil Weaver said nonmoving violations have helped remove a multitude of drunk drivers from the road, KING reported.

Eight percent of the DUI arrests that occurred between 2018 and 2022 began as nonmoving traffic violation vehicle stops, Capt. Weaver added.

Such stops have also netted a slew of drug busts, he said.

“Although defective equipment is not a core goal of WSP, it is an effective safety tool we often use as an educational opportunity to ensure a little thing doesn’t become a bigger thing,” Capt. Weaver told KING.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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