A motorist who paid a speeding ticket he got from a state trooper who used out-of-state license plates on his unmarked patrol car wants his money back.
"What gives the police the right to drive illegally on the highway?" said Dave Milbrandt, a company finance manager. "Do they have a special exemption?"
Milbrandt told The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver that he planned to see a lawyer about the $247 he paid after Trooper Bradford A. Moon, driving an unmarked Dodge Charger with Oregon plates, caught him going 56 mph in a 35-mph zone on state Route 4 in Longview last month.
"Did they write me a ticket illegally?" Milbrandt said. "If they did, I'd like my money back and my record cleared."
Moon, who removed the Oregon plates after the incident came to light, was trying to be creative in catching speeders but should have told his superiors at the Washington State Patrol, Sgt. Randy L. Hullinger said Monday.
"It's not typically something that is done," Hullinger said.
"We encourage our troopers to look at innovative ways to catch people," he said, "but it's always good to run innovative ideas past somebody else so we can consider all possible outcomes.
"He went out on his own," Hullinger said. "He was attempting to use some initiative to solve a problem, which is our job, but in this case it looks like maybe judgment-wise he should have run it by somebody else."
A police impersonator?
Moon failed to consider that "the first thing the motoring public might think is, 'Is this a police impersonator?'" Hullinger said. "When they see a nonstandard police car, we want people to understand that when all the lights go on ... this is for real — but if there are Oregon plates on the car, there's just that much more concern in the public's eye it might not be a police car."
Moon, who had removed the plates from a personal vehicle after moving to Washington from Oregon, will not face disciplinary action, and the ticket will stand unless Milbrandt is successful in persuading a judge otherwise, patrol officials said.
Moon decided on the tactic after reading about a boy who claimed he regularly drove 100 mph on Interstate 5 and avoided detection by knowing how to spot patrol cars, relying partly on whether the plates were in-state, Hullinger said.
The young driver was never caught.