Here’s what SPD isn’t likely to pull you over for any more

Eight months ago, the city’s Inspector General sent interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz a letter asking him to “partner with OIG to find ways to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce the practice of conducting traffic stops for civil violations or low-level, non-dangerous moving violations.” Inspector General Lisa Judge – whose duty is to “help ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system” – voiced concern about such stops resulting in “use of force or tragedy” and having “broader implications for public trust. Judge added that “a new framework is needed to address the historical inequities and inherent dangers in traffic stops. Without drilling down to underlying issues and root causes, police and community are
destined to continue the same cycle of traffic stops gone wrong.”

Working-group conversations ensued, as outlined in this followup Inspector Judge sent earlier this week, released this evening after Chief Diaz went public with his official reply, spelling out what SPD will “deprioritize.” Here’s the chief’s full letter; from SPD Blotter, an excerpt:

… the Seattle Police Department will no longer treat the following violations as primary reasons to engage in a traffic stop:

-Expired or missing vehicle registration. License tabs expired. (Title: License and plates required) – SMC 11.22.070

-Issues with the display of registration plates. No front license plate, a vehicle must have a rear license plate. (Title: Vehicle license plates displayed) – SMC II.22.080

-Technical violations of SMC 11 .84.140, such as items hanging from the rear-view mirror and cracks in the windshield. Actual visual obstruction, such as snow, fog, non-transparent material, or shattered windshields, will be enforced. (Title: Windshield obstruction) – SMC 11.84.140

-Bicycle helmet violations (KCHC 9.10)

(That rule is a King County matter, and a possible repeal remains under discussion.) In the response, Diaz notes that these violations can still be enforced – they just won’t be a sole reason for a traffic stop. He adds, “The group also recommended ceasing primary enforcement for all equipment violations. I support this recommendation in principle, but only if there are viable options to address the equipment violation. For pedestrian and driver safety, we cannot allow vehicles with safety equipment issues to just remain in that status. SPD is working with others to identify a way for individuals to get safety equipment issues fixed, even when they cannot afford to do so.”

65 Replies to "Here's what SPD isn't likely to pull you over for any more"

  • Question Authority January 14, 2022 (9:20 pm)

    With the Helmet law gone now if you get brain damage you can’t sue, right?

    • WSB January 14, 2022 (10:09 pm)

      It’s not gone, yet anyway. And you can sue anyone over anything. Whether you win is up to a judge, but there is no bar to meet (pun not intended) for suing.

  • Anne January 14, 2022 (9:44 pm)

    Maybe  we’ll use one of our cars  just for driving in City of Seattle & skip renewing tabs- save some $$. 

    • 🤦‍♂️ January 14, 2022 (10:54 pm)

      Might as well Anne. Others have been doing it for years. I’ve notice tabs expired for a year or two on at least 2-3 vehicles every day.

      • Zipda January 15, 2022 (10:21 am)

        Very observant of you.

    • westy January 15, 2022 (12:18 pm)

      The parking enforcement cops in those tricycles will still ticket you for this. I got a ticket parked in front of my house when I forgot to renew my tabs late last year. This change means they won’t pull you over while you’re driving just for expired tabs.I feel like this is how SPD has been operating in the past few years anyway.

      Anecdotally I constantly see barely drivable cars with completely smashed front bumpers and no headlights or missing license plates is insane compared to other cities, but almost never see any cars pulled over.

      The bridge detour route during rush hour is a free for all. I see lots of cars running red lights, like driving around people then hanging a left on red, not just flowing through a yellow. Others just throwing trash out their windows. Hopefully patrol cars can be rerouted to handle these types of issues instead and let the meter maids handle things like tabs, plates, etc. while we work out better funding for SPD.

  • 🤦‍♂️ January 14, 2022 (9:49 pm)

    IMO, SPD wasn’t pulling people over for these reasons anyway., at least not in a meaningful way. Lately, they haven’t been staffed to do much of any traffic enforcement. With 300 + officers quitting in the past few years, traffic officers have been reassigned to do more pressing duties. I can back all of this up with emails I have from SPD Sergeants, Lts, and a Captain.

    I wish violations were enforced but nothing is really changing.

    The only people enforcing expired tabs is parking enforcement officers and there are not enough to catch all the scofflaws around here.

  • bill January 14, 2022 (10:07 pm)

    Every person who has been pleading their special privilege to drive across the low bridge can take the plates off their car now and not even hassle with stopping on Harbor Island to reinstall them. And what a sucker I am, renewing my car registration last week. Will the city next issue a fake credit card I can use to steal gas?

    • 🤦‍♂️ January 14, 2022 (10:49 pm)

      I agree Bill. It’s frustrating to pay for tabs and others don’t have to and won’t get pulled over for it. The state/county really needs the money and people who follow the rules end up paying more- just like with shoplifting. Parking enforcement may still get someone for tabs but the stars must align. This city is so broken and it has been that way for years, pre pandemic.

  • StopCuttingDownTrees January 14, 2022 (10:08 pm)

    Well, why should any of us register our vehicles anymore? I think I’ll just save myself the annual $380+ this year.

    • Foop January 15, 2022 (10:09 pm)

      So you can complain about how you pay taxes when a bike lane goes in, obviously.

      • StopCuttingDownTrees January 16, 2022 (2:08 pm)

        Well, since the fine for not having car insurance is less than half the cost of buying it for a year, maybe I’ll drop that, too.

    • Ben January 16, 2022 (8:51 pm)

      When you register the next year, they’ll make you catch up on the year you missed.  I had a car I didn’t drive for 6 months, so I didn’t reregister it.  When I went to go register it, it made me pay for the back months.  Perhaps if you just never register it again, maybe you can get away with it?  But then you’ll need to show registration when you sell the car.  So seems like they’ll get you no matter what…

  • D-burger January 14, 2022 (10:13 pm)

    Don’t forget that the Washington State Patrol can, and will, pull you over for these same violations. They’re not as lenient.

    • Mando#2 January 14, 2022 (11:10 pm)

      It’s been my experience that the state patrol is more likely to give breaks, after they pull you over I suppose.  Haven’t talked to one of them for a while though.  In Tacoma I got a break from a pair of cops, it was very unexpected.(few years ago)

  • The Admiral January 14, 2022 (10:22 pm)

    To be clear, the haven’t stopped pulling people over for these minor infractions, they just can’t use them as the sole reason for the stop.  What is known as a pretext stop has long been weaponized by law enforcement against BIPOC.  A biased officer could, and would, target non-white persons while ignoring the same infractions made by a white driver.  It’s not a fix to biased policing, but it’s a start.

    • Midi January 15, 2022 (8:35 am)

      Thank you for this view, I completely agree. I can see how the message could be counter-intuitive, like they’re telling people it’s okay to not renew your car tabs, but there’s a deeper purpose in the action that will save lives.And yes, we should all continue renewing our car tabs.   

    • Suge White January 15, 2022 (8:53 am)

      In some ways I see how there are parts to this that are good. But I also live downtown, and I am a delivery driver from Tacoma to Everett. The amount of cars I see with no license plates driving recklessly on a daily basis is frightening. I can only assume that the way they are being driven that they are stolen and the operator is under the influence. Criminals are very aware of the police not being able to stop them. I suggest watching out for Suburu station wagons, Ford F 250 Trucks, and Box Delivery vans and trucks. These all seem to be preferred by the criminals.

      • WS Res January 15, 2022 (11:07 am)

        So if they’re being driven recklessly, they can be pulled over for that.

    • Pessoa January 15, 2022 (11:31 am)

      Admiral:  Your remedy then, is to apply the law non-uniformly and prejudicially in order to, ironically, correct bias in enforcing the law?   

      • Gina January 16, 2022 (10:06 am)

        I think the point is have true and present (non-administrative) public safety reason to pull someone over since you (officers) seem compelled to give a “pass” on these administrative infractions to those who look like you…even when you’re trying to be fair. Unconscious bias is a tough one.. hard to fix what you can’t even recognize in yourself. This is a good step in the right direction. Let the meter cops take care of these admin details. 

    • Don Jackson January 18, 2022 (11:50 am)

      This is basically an old wives tale with no basis. People like to claim it happens, but there has never been any evidence of it, and studies/audits have found the opposite. Just like claims that police are racist in general. Completely unfounded. 

  • Mj January 14, 2022 (10:34 pm)

    Is there a middle way, for example with expired tabs can’t the officer after running the plates get the Department of Licensing to send the car owner a Letter regarding the expired tabs and keep tabs on this.  Give the owner one chance via a warning letter?

    Regarding bike helmets they need to be legally required to be worn by all riders, obeying this law should be made by the individual.  If they choose to not wear a helmet, adults, they need to be legally and financially responsible for the choice they make.

    • aa January 15, 2022 (9:35 am)

      I don’t understand MJ’s comment.  I would think that helmet or not I am legally and financially responsible.  Right?  I have long wondered about the laws that are solely to protect me from myself.  Why should there be a law for helmets or seatbelts?  Before you think I am crazy, I do believe it is important to wear a helmet and use a seatbelt.  Since I am the only person who suffers if I don’t, why should it be a law?  Why add more things for the police to enforce or ignore?  For the record, I do not include using a phone while driving as one of these!  That is a circumstance where others can be hurt.

      • LMB January 15, 2022 (10:21 am)

        Seat belts can prevent passengers from colliding with the driver and with each other. They also protect other drivers/pedestrians by keeping the driver behind the wheel. 

      • admyrl byrd January 15, 2022 (11:28 am)

        Could go a couple of directions with the counterargument here – vaccine mandates/requirements are also overwhelmingly for an individuals’ benefit but have general outcomes that are desirable as well.  For seatbelts and helmets, everyone’s insurance premiums goes up because you’re more severely injured and it comes out of the pool (in fact insurance companies are probably a major reason these laws exist).  If the person is uninsured, then the money comes directly out of our taxes, including all the emergency response effort to extract your body from the car.  When your freedoms transgress the border of common sense and start to affect my wallet, that’s where laws should exist and should be enforced.

        • aa January 15, 2022 (12:28 pm)

          Is Byrd saying that non-helmet wearing/ non-seat belt using people are more likely to be uninsured?  Or are you saying insurance would not cover the cost if you aren’t wearing a helmet?  That would depend on if it was an illegal act I imagine.  If not wearing a helmet has no legal ramifications, and the person injured has insurance, I’m curious, how would that effect your wallet?

  • Scrappy January 14, 2022 (10:40 pm)

    “These violations do not have a direct connection to the safety of other individuals on the roads, paths, or sidewalks. We know there are concerns about if these violations disproportionately fall on those who are unable to meet financial demands.”All for one and one for all. If those “who are unable to meet financial demands” are no longer held accountable, then ALL are not accountable, under the law. Regardless if there are no “traffic stops” for Improper Display, one cannot pick and choose when the law is enforced (until a new ordinance is enacted, which still seems to me, arbitrary).

    • Pessoa January 15, 2022 (10:59 am)

      Well said.  Apply these new rules for policing uniformly and without prejudice.  

  • 935 January 14, 2022 (11:19 pm)

    De-policing continues.

    Scofflaws arise. More steps to lawlessness in the city

    • No more Crime January 15, 2022 (9:45 am)

      Watch out for older Suburu station wagons, Ford F 250 trucks and delivery box trucks with no plates. These all seem to be favored by the criminal element these days.

  • Brian January 15, 2022 (3:06 am)

    I’m confused about the “fog” line for visual obstructions. Is that just code for vape smoke? How would a car have fog inside of it?

    • Nora January 15, 2022 (12:52 pm)

      You ever park with someone on lovers lane? Or have to wait for your car to defrost on a cold morning?

    • January 15, 2022 (1:13 pm)


      When there is moisture in the air trapped in a car and the windows are colder than the dew point, the moisture from the air will turn into condensation on the windows.
      Causes of Excess Moisture in the Car’s Air:

      • Respiration from driver and passengers
      • Leak that allows rain to drip into the interior
      • Wet items like umbrellas left in the car
      • Floors damp from snow or rain on shoes
      • Open beverages left in the car
      • Wet car upholstery from leaving a car window open
    • My two cents January 15, 2022 (1:35 pm)

      Brian: it’s a reference to your car windows being fogged up – maybe the defroster isn’t working which creates an unsafe driving environment.

      • The Admiral January 15, 2022 (4:38 pm)

        Or, someone who does not have the luxury of parking in a garage and has to defrost/defog in the morning to get to work.  The level of fog on the window considered unsafe has been left to the discretion of the officer regardless of amount of frost/fog.  This can be similar to citing a cracked windshield as a visual obstruction.  Again, a reason for a biased officer to target a specific group.

    • D-burger January 15, 2022 (1:38 pm)

      Seriously? You’ve never had your windows fogged up inside after parking your vehicle overnight after a run of wet weather, followed by dry air and colder temperatures?

  • Morgan January 15, 2022 (7:14 am)

    I have a bad feeling this will not have the desired effects and lead to other unintended bad ones. Is there going to be independent study and analysis? Reports on impacts? Why not just means test the cost of registrations, or …we can and should be a much kinder society and not penalize poverty, but non enforcement of rules I suspect will create different, newer problems while not solving old ones.

  • Mike January 15, 2022 (8:06 am)

    Washington State:- Voters approve cap of $30 on car tab fees thrown out.  Person than pushed initiative, that was overwhelmingly approved by voters, fined millions.- Government official bans police from enforcement of one of the most expensive car tab programs in the country.Sounds like government is cracking down on citizens that pay taxes.  Personally I don’t think police should risk being shot or run over by drivers just for car tabs.

    • admyrl byrd January 15, 2022 (11:32 am)

      Tabs are a proxy for use taxes; like them or not, that’s what the collective governments – elected by us – have meted out to support the infrastructure required to use the cars.   You may not like them, but that does not make it free to use your car.If officers can’t stop cars for them, then what is the enforcement mechanism?  I’m fine with officer taking a photo of the car in operation then having the owner fined, vehicle impounded, wages garnished.  But I’m sure that is offensive to someone’s freedoms.

  • anonyme January 15, 2022 (8:12 am)

    SPD has been throwing passive-aggressive tantrums ever since the Justice Dept. investigation in 2011, and the defund movement just exacerbated the problem.  Law enforcement in Seattle essentially no longer exists except for the most serious felonies.  To make things even worse, the IG is conspiring with SPD to codify a system of policing based on race and caste, which seems, on its face, unconstitutional.  Diaz even seems to suggest that those with equipment/safety violations should be able to fix their vehicles at taxpayers’ expense.   Seattle has its head buried so far down the rabbit hole that nothing but an arse remains.

  • uncle loco January 15, 2022 (8:45 am)

    Making life much easier for the car thieves  and thieves in general around here. No surprise.

  • N January 15, 2022 (9:01 am)

    I’d rather see free helmets given out, we know so much more about brain injuries now and it’s not good.  It might not hurt others but neither does not wearing a seatbelt but it will wreck lives.  Becoming more on the honor system.  May be a lot easier to get that Tesla if I don’t have to fork over four figures each year for tabs – many of us will still follow the law but geez, would rather see a fund for those who really can’t afford their tabs and insurance because often times if they don’t have tabs they don’t have insurance which again affects other people in an accident when there is no coverage for medical, pain and suffering etc – BTW last year had the most auto deaths in our state in over 13 years.

  • John Dahomiz' January 15, 2022 (9:15 am)

    Regardless, I will continue to wear my helmet. It’s not a political statement.  

  • sbre January 15, 2022 (9:37 am)

    What problem(s), if any, will someone face if attempting to sell a vehicle that doesn’t have current tabs?   Or hasn’t been registered for a couple of years?

    • 🤦‍♂️ January 15, 2022 (10:49 am)

      Supposedly when any owner goes to get new tabs, any unpaid previous year is also due. I asked DOL about this in the past. They said there is no late penalty but any previous year fee has to be paid.

      • admyrl byrd January 15, 2022 (11:33 am)

        stiff late penalties actually work pretty well from what I’ve seen in other states.

  • N January 15, 2022 (9:57 am)

    I assume the city meter folks will no longer be ticketing you for expired meters when parked on the street in front of your house?

  • eric January 15, 2022 (10:24 am)

    No wonder my catalytic converter thief didn’t have a license plate.  He no longer needs one.He also had about 10 air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror.Obviously thumbing his nose at us law abiding citizens.

  • Mj January 15, 2022 (11:11 am)

    aa – my comment regarding wearing or not wearing was if an adult chooses not to wear a helmet and unfortunately ends up with a serious head injury due to that choice they need to be accountable for the financial cost associated with the choice they made not to wear a helmet.  this item is critical in litigation and maintaining the helmet law keeps the responsibility where it belongs.

    • aa January 15, 2022 (12:32 pm)

      MJ-It sounds like you are making a correlation between a persons choice to not wear a helmet and their ability to be financially responsible for their actions.  Do you have data that confirms your assumption?

    • helmets 4 all January 15, 2022 (9:03 pm)

      People can sustain head injuries while driving, or even walking on the sidewalk. Maybe everyone outside their homes should have to wear proper protective equipment?

  • westello January 15, 2022 (11:37 am)

    I no longer live in Seattle but this made me smile. Cops in Seattle do NOT want to be traffic cops. I even saw a cop watch someone blatantly run a red light and he did nothing. You can pretty much get away with what you do on Seattle streets but not the freeway. 

  • wordle January 15, 2022 (12:11 pm)

    Love the passive language of “traffic stops gone wrong.” Like it’s the traffic stop’s fault and not the racist cops who are a product of the systemic white supremacy of police. And all the usual bleating of the right wingers in the comments: OH NO the lawlessness! Like any of you would ever have to deal with getting shot for driving a car with expired tabs.

    • ltfd January 16, 2022 (7:24 pm)


  • Mj January 15, 2022 (2:13 pm)

    aa – litigation cases are complicated and maintaining the helmet law keeps the person choosing not to wear a helmet culpable for that choice regarding any head injury that could have been avoided with the use of a helmet.

  • Derek January 15, 2022 (3:17 pm)

    The hall monitors are popping off in this thread. But they forget the George Floyd and other protests so quickly and what they’re about. Marginalized and impoverished people are the ones who suffer the most. People with money will still pay their tabs. Even if they joke like they won’t. This is about getting the cops to stop harassing the marginalized. 

  • Mj January 15, 2022 (3:45 pm)

    Derek – everyone is responsible for paying their car tabs and I have suggested an alternative method to remind people of this obligation without a cop pulling you over via having the DOL send the owner a Letter noting the delinquency.

  • Pessoa January 15, 2022 (9:21 pm)

    This notion of employing different standards of law enforcement based on race  should trouble any fair-minded person.  Law enforcement decisions should not be made on “a prior” assumptions, such as whether someone belongs to a marginalized community that has been historically oppressed, but on whether or not that individual has committed an infraction.  Instead of creating a class that, in practice, will be exempt from certain infractions, let’s train officers to properly use their ample discretionary authority without prejudice or bias. 

    • WS Res January 16, 2022 (1:43 pm)

      That’s literally the opposite of what this change accomplishes.  

    • anonyme January 17, 2022 (12:42 pm)

      Perfectly stated.

  • Wonderland January 16, 2022 (8:55 am)

    Driving is a privilege , a dangerous one. Ridiculous, lazy new idea, just like litering..its everywhere, bizarre.

  • 22blades January 17, 2022 (7:45 am)

    So “we” slam the SPD all day long but when they’re trying to do the right thing, many commenters here talk like it’s a snarky license to steal. Overwhelmed in resources, facing a confrontational public, “we” are not contributing to a functional community. Please do your part & that includes making your police department work for you. I’m as big a critic of some of SPD’s actions as anybody, but, “we’ve” got responsibilities too.

  • Abgail Clara Rocco January 27, 2022 (1:10 pm)

    How do I pay for a traffic citation for expired tags?

Sorry, comment time is over.