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Is it Illegal to Paint Your Car Like a Cop Car?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We've all seen them before. You're driving down the highway, probably speeding a little bit. Suddenly, in your rear view mirror, you see a black and white car.

Yikes! It's a police car. You hit your breaks, slowing down to exactly 65 mph. You keep an eye on the car and drive on your best behavior until the car passes you. Wait. It's not a cop car! It's just some dinky jalopy with a mismatched paint job.

After breathing a sigh of relief, you think, "Is that even legal? Can you paint your car to look like a cop car?"

Impersonating a Police Officer

The laws regarding impersonating a cop vary from state to state:

But, that black and white car in your rear view mirror probably isn't going to be cited for impersonating a police officer unless it tries to pull you over.

California Vehicle Code

Go ahead paint your car black and white then! Not so fast. 

While you probably won't be guilty of impersonating a police officer for painting your car black and white, you may be in violation of a vehicle code. For example, California Vehicle Code section 27605 states, "No person shall own or operate a motor vehicle painted in the manner . . . to resemble a motor vehicle used by a peace officer or traffic officer on duty." If your state has a similar vehicle code, your black and white car could get cited.

If you do get cited for impersonating a police officer or violating the vehicle code, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to help interpret your state's statute and assess your options.

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