The fuzz, the po-po, the man, 5-0, the old Bill, the rozzers and many more slang terms are used to describe the police. Police cars appear to look like the civilian models on the outside with visual differences and with higher performance engines, high output alternators and larger more efficient cooling systems. Police cars require these mods to run lights, laptop computers, radios and many other gadgets needed for the job. Some of these modern police cars use equipment and mods they may or may not abide by local laws for civilian vehicles allowed on the street. Many auto enthusiasts would pay to see a police car get pulled over due to an illegal modification but one would probably have a better chance of winning the lottery.
Many police vehicles have dark window tints to protect the identity of the officer or officers. Dark window tinting protects the identity of the subject in the back during high profile cases. Some grades of tint are used to prevent the windows from breaking. K-9 Units are usually SUVs in the United States and some foreign countries. These vehicles are lower than the civilian models for the K-9 to enter and depart the vehicle more easily. Also, lowering an SUV gives the operator an advantage in the handling department.
Police cars have rear child locks permanently engaged so the subject cannot escape and the vehicle has a cage to stop the subject from choking the driver and or jumping while handcuffed from the rear of the car to the front.
This article will touch on these and many more illegal modifications done to police cars that might otherwise earn a citation or a county-paid vacation if a citizen performed these modifications on their personal vehicles.
18 Dark window tint
Some jurisdictions do not allow window tint and the ones that do require the front windows have a different transparency for police and law enforcement related personnel. According to tinting-laws.com, some areas only allow window tint above the AS-1 line on the windshield, front and side windows must allow more than 28% of light in and back side windows must allow more than 15% of light in while the rear must allow more than 15% of light in. Many police cars are much darker than this because of the nature of the job. Also, there are private investigators and people with medical conditions with doctor’s notes that are exempt from this law. Some police vehicles used for surveillance have tinted windscreens as well.
17 Lowered ride height
As I stated earlier, lowered SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, according to GMFleet.com, are special order vehicles for law enforcement. The Tahoe PPV comes equipped with a 5.3 small block V8 which provides 11% more horsepower but it is 10% more efficient according to Maxim magazine.
The chassis has been reinforced for tough police work.
Also with uprated shocks, stiffer springs, wider track, and lower ride height, the Tahoe PPV performs better than the civilian model. A lowered, coil over equipped hot hatch with a larger exhaust may get pulled and checked for your ride height by local authorities. "Do as they say, not as they do."
16 Rear door locks
Rear door locks are a necessity in keeping criminals inside of the police car until transported to a holding area or jail. According to PoliceInterceptor.com the door locks in Ford Interceptor police cars do not disengage by the simple child switch along the inside of the door like civilian models and the key fob does not unlock the rear doors when activated. Along with a rear cage and locked doors and bars along the windows, this would be an illegal modification for a civilian car if a person is trapped inside of a vehicle due to a crash or if the vehicle is submerged in water because the vehicle is basically a locked “coffin.” So that's a no for the rest of us on rear door locks.
15 Driver facing laptop mount
Many readers will call me out on this but in the state where I reside, it is illegal to have a TV or computer screen facing the drive while the vehicle is moving. According to local Florida laws and laws where watching TV is not against the law, you will be cited for operating a motor vehicle while distracted if you get into an accident or if an officer needs probable cause to stop you for other reasons according to drivinglaws.aaa.com. Police officers have laptops mounted in the view of the driver and fully operational when in motion. This is obviously illegal for civilians.
According to Nox-lux.com, many states have different laws on spotlights and roof top lights.
These lights are legal in most jurisdictions but most states do not allow more than two spot lights and no lights should be aimed at the windshield, windows or mirrors.
When police officers pull over a violator at night, they are often trained to shine the light into the driver’s left mirror, this allows the officer to approach the vehicle without the driver seeing the officer as he or she walks up to the door. So if the driver is thinking about shooting the officer, the driver will have to guess when the officer approaches the vehicle.
13 Emergency lights (Blue and Red)
This should be a no brainer but blue and red lights are prohibited and flashing blue and or red lights are illegal in all jurisdictions. According to www.leg.state.fl.us, a driver can have a red LED/neon light under the vehicle, just as long as the lights are not in front of the vehicle.
Blue lights are prohibited unless the vehicle is a law enforcement vehicle and/or unless an individual is appointed by the governor.
Federal laws allow the security for diplomats and other foreign officials to have blue lights on their private security/police cars in a convoy. Do not dress your friends as diplomats and follow their car with a blue light on top. It will not work and might get you a little jail time.
12 Police decals
According to www.leg.state.fl.us, police decals are not legal on motor vehicles in the United States for civilians because one might assume the operator is a police officer.
This includes but is not limited to patrolmen, sheriffs, deputies, troopers, highway patrol, commission officers, marshals, constable, bailiffs or the fire department.
If you so desire to have an official title on your vehicle, then “Cheese Cake Enforcement” or “Space Patrol” will work just fine. Also prohibited is state attorney, public defender, agent, ATF and or FBI. Common sense plays a major role in this one. Companies selling law enforcement equipment are exempt from this law.
11 Flashing headlights (white strobes)
Leg.state.fl.us states that strobe lights in or around headlights are legal only if you drive a utility, police, fire or ambulance vehicle. Strobe headlights in Florida are legal on motorcycles.
Many emergency vehicles use strobes in the headlight housing to increase visibility.
Utility trucks used for road construction are also allowed to use strobes. Strobes are a great way of getting attention to your modified car at a car show or meet but make sure you turn them off before hitting the streets or you will receive a citation and some officers may give you a warning. Don’t hold your breath.
10 Sirens and horns
All vehicles are required to have a horn but according to leg.state.fl.us, none are allowed to have sirens other than emergency vehicles. Every emergency vehicle must be equipped with a siren, whistle or bell capable of emitting sound audible of not less than 500 ft.
The law also states that all sirens must be active when the vehicle is responding to an emergency.
The good news is that a bell does not count as being illegal or a siren. So if you have a modified trolley and you want to use your bell then you are in luck but the trolley includes a modified bus that resembles a street car and an actual trolley with overhead electric wires or self-propelled and it must be a public conveyance.
9 Paint Schemes
Certain certain paint schemes are illegal in many states. According to the leg.state.fl.us, no civilian shall color or cause a vehicle to be colored the same color as the Florida Highway Patrol colors scheme which is a tan or light beige roof with dark brown sides, roof and trunk (See the picture above for reference). The reason why the Highway patrol uses this color scheme is to blend in with Florida’s terrain. The tan roof blends in with the dead grass during the winter and hot drought months. The sides are dark brown/black to make it harder to see from a distance.
8 Fog lights
Many states don’t care how many fog lights you have on your vehicle just as long as you don’t operate them at when visibility is back to normal.
Police vehicles may have more than one set of fog lamps and some are activated when the emergency flashers are engaged.
If a citizen does this then he or she can be cited for a noncriminal moving violation. That means you won’t go to jail but if you don’t pay the fine you may be issued an electronic warrant for failure to appear. According to leg.state.fl.us, police vehicles aren’t even required to use headlights just as long as the vehicle is operated in a safe manner.
7 Vehicle tags/Number plates
Any and all privately owned vehicles must have a vehicle registration. A police car does not need a license plate and according to Ohio.com. An unmarked or marked police car can lurk in a dark alleyway waiting for the next victim or suspect. If a citizen does this with a personal vehicle, he or she will either go to jail and or get their vehicle towed because most states don’t allow you to obtain auto insurance without a current license plate for initial registration. Attaching anything that obstructs a plate in the state of Florida is grounds for a citation which is a noncriminal moving violation.
6 Bullet Resistant Inserts
Many Police cruisers in the U.S. have a “bullet resistant” insert which is roughly a 1,500 insert according to Carbuzz.com. The older Ford interceptors had armor in the doors to protect the driver against small hand gun rounds but only the newer plates protect against larger rifle ammunition such as ammunition form an assault rifle (5.56, ,226 and 7.69 x 39 and so on). The material is a ballistic grade tile and an inner layer of material similar to Kevlar. The only problem is that the windows are not bullet resistant.
5 Handcuffs around the rearview mirror
Handcuffs attached to a rearview mirror may seem harmless but if you're stopped for a moving violation and you forget that you did not pay a ticket and are detained, you may be in more trouble than you thought.
And no, I’m not referring to the fashion police, I’m talking about real police officers and real trouble.
Let’s look deeper into this. If a driver has a handcuff key on a key ring in a pocket, on a necklace and or concealed on their body in anyway when detained, that person could be charged with unlawful possession of a handcuff key which is a felony in the State of Florida and many other states according to FLsenate.gov. So if you chose to rock a tacky trend, make sure the handcuff key is on a string around the mirror as well and not on your body.
4 License plate frames
According to an article on Miamiherald.com, license plate frames are illegal in the State of Florida and the violator can receive a noncriminal violation which does not require a court appearance.
Local and state officers have license plate frames on some of their vehicles.
The idea behind it is that the license plate frame cannot obstruct the view of the state and numbers but even the plate frames that only cover a portion of the state of Florida at the top part of the license plate is still illegal. The officers that site individuals for this violation are usually looking for another offense or crime.
3 Motorcycle LEDs/Lights
Motorcycles are not exempt from illegal mods. No blue lights are allowed, but flashing headlights are ok for visibility as long as they flash in a slow pulse. Police motorcycles usually use blue at night for visibility. There is an exception to this law even for cars and other vehicles. In the state of Florida, if the vehicle is on private property and not moving, blue lights would not be a problem according to leg.state.fl.us. Other states vary on this law so please look up the local laws concerning the use of different color lights in your state, county, providence, country or jurisdiction.
2 Lo Jack Receiver
Lo Jack is a vehicle recovery system used to track vehicles with the Lo Jack GPS vehicle location devices in equipped vehicles. According to LoJack.com, the receivers and antennas are free for law enforcement.
These systems claim to have a 90 % recovery rate and almost all departments in the United States and Canada have a few cars with this equipment.
When retired police cars are sold, sometimes the equipment isn’t removed. If a professional car thief got a hold on one of these “gems” it could be used to locate and steal a car. Possession of these devices counts and possession of burglary or theft tools which is a felony in many jurisdictions.
1 Police Radio
Last but certainly not least is police radios. Many vehicles going to police auctions are sold with old equipment that still works just like the Lo Jack system mentioned earlier. Police radios would be a problem for non-licensed, non-law enforcement personnel.
Ham radio enthusiasts can tap into police radio waves but they also are aware of the consequences and their radios sometimes require modifications.
A police scanner is legal because it only allows the operator to listen to transmissions but when a police radio is left in a vehicle after an auction and is still programmed to communicate with local police, this could cause a problem for the person abusing the radio according to the New York Times.
Sources: nytimes.com, miamiherald.com, carbuzz.com, policeinterceptor.com