Are police officers allowed to break traffic laws without their lights/siren on?

I constantly notice police officers failing to use their signals, rolling through stop signs, etc. when driving. Additionally, I was recently pulled over for speeding (got just a warning), but when the officer was talking to me, he said that at one point he was driving well over the speed limit in order to catch up to me. He didn't turn his lights on until he stopped behind me at a stoplight, and the light finally went green. I have always been under the impression that in order to break any traffic laws, police cars had to have their lights or siren on. I know that laws differ depending on region. I live in Portland, Oregon. Does anyone know the answer to this for sure?


Just to clarify, I'm not trying to complain, and I'm not trying to fight what's going on. Just merely looking for some factual information on this topic. I'd rather get some actual backed-up information, rather than opinions about cops, etc.

14 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    having worked in Washington State and in Alabama.

    Usually lights are an emergency tool to pull you over, get through an intersection with siren going to get me to an emergency call.

    All other routine stops, are done while pacing, watching your turning, tail lights working etc, without any violation that could, or may take place.

    Think of this scenario from my point of view: If the officer had turned on the lights, while stopped at a Red light, at an intersection, would you then have pulled through the Red light, to yield to an emergency situation? (Lights on my vehicle, you are now impeding / blocking an emergency vehicle, from responding to an emergency, which is against the law, thus you by law should be pulling to the far right hand side of the road, allowing the emergency vehicle to pass through. Same with all four way traffic at the said intersection, STOP immediately to allow the emergency vehicle passage.) Now would everyone at the intersection, have stopped by law, thinking the officer was on an emergency, or could this have caused another possible emergency?

    Just something to think about, as this is a thought process an officer would have to have thought about, the possible repercussions of turning on the lights while stopped at a red light?

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  • 4 years ago


    Source(s): Criminal Record Search Database -
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  • 1 decade ago

    Every police department, from state to state, has their own take on this matter. Usually, police officers are urged by their superiors to obey laws like ordinary citizens, however, there are many reasons why you may see an officer breaking a traffic law/regulation without the use of their lights/sirens.....

    For example, when an officer gets a call of a home burglary in progress, this means that the perpetrator is in the act of burglarizing a home, which means that the perp is still there (hence, "in progress")......Picture it being YOUR home...... Would you rather the officer hurry up and get there (run stop signs, break the speed limit) to stop and catch the perp, or would you rather have the officer use their lights/sirens and scare the perp away, who can hear the sirens from miles away, or would you rather the officer just obey all traffic laws (stopping for red lights, obeying speed limits) and take their time getting there? How do you know for absolute certainty that the officer is just driving or responding to a call?

    There are many reasons why you may see an officer driving "routinely" and break a few traffic laws. Yes, police officers should lead by example, however, in the future, when you see an officer breaking a traffic law, take a moment to think if you know for sure wether they are responding to a call or not. Who knows? You DON'T know for sure, so why not give an officer some slack?

    Source(s): 7 years Law Enforcement experience....and counting.
    • ...Show all comments
    • samj1286 years agoReport

      To this I say BOO!
      You should be beaten and made an example of as a tyrant.
      NO cop is above the law. EVER.
      You have lights and sirens to exempt yourself from the laws of the road so you can respond to an emergency (like a home being broken into) and to enforce the law.
      You ARE still bound by the law

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  • 3 years ago

    Police Officers Breaking The Law

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  • 1 decade ago

    Yes. They are allowed to.

    There are different types of warnings. The audio ones and the visual ones. The visual means that you can tell it's a police caar, so you should get out of the way. The flashing lights don't have to be on.

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  • Golfer
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Many times they are on a silent alarm, other times they are just in a hurry. Most state police that I have seen and know are very careful to obey all laws very diligently. (Ore. NM, AZ, Wash. AK.) Local and county maybe not so much

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  • 1 decade ago

    Good question. As far as Emergency vehicles (in the US), they're supposed to not go over 15 MPH the posted speed limit. Police however, are on another "level". Because of so many "discretionary powers" given to them, a lot of their actions are accepted/ excepted /tolerated /celebrated /encouraged /admonished /questioned. I personally believe they have WAY to much discretion in too many areas, considering they are not properly trained, experienced or even qualified to make certain decisions. Like "Selective enforcement", eforcing WHICH law and to WHO? Isn't that tyranny? And Tasers, to administer physical punishment for non-compliance is torture. Especially if the "non-compliance" is based on a single man's "discretion//judgement/perception/option".

    Source(s): It's sad to think that the police can break three or four laws to enforce one..... Just hope the policeman that your dealing with is in a "good-mood" and not "cynical".
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  • KevinB
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    I don't know your local laws, but cops do this crap (including driving very unsafely) all of the time, which is one of the many reasons I have no respect for cops. That, and I've never met a smart one. They're the kinds of guys that aren't smart enough to make it in college or as a successful businessman or entrepreneur, so they get their kicks instead by pushing people around, getting jacked up on steroids and intimidating people. It's the only kind of power they can have.

    • blade4 years agoReport

      whiny bigot.

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  • 1 decade ago

    hell no but noone is gonna pull them over for it and its not like they care if the camera at the light gets them it'll just get thrown out. cops do and will do whatever they want until we stand up to them and do something about it.

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  • 1 decade ago

    They shouldn't but hey can always make excuses. Who is going to arrest them? Don't try it just because you are envious or resent their hypocrisy. It will always come out bad for you, not them. Silly crap like that is not worth a battle with police. There are much more serious reasons for much more serious battles to come with military forces.

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