Ask a Trooper: Can unmarked vehicles make traffic stops?

Published 9:05 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.

Question: Is it legal for local police or highway patrol to make regular traffic stops with an unmarked vehicle (no markings at all), or does the vehicle have to have some kind of markings?

Troy Christianson

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Answer: The Minnesota State Patrol has 15 unmarked squad cars operated by troopers whose primary job function is road patrol. Key words in the statute are “primary function.” Per state statue, these unmarked patrol cars are required to have a door shield (Minnesota State Patrol decal).

Additional unmarked patrol units are not required to have a decal; they include our district investigators, vehicle crime unit, state Capitol area troopers and administration supervisors. Their primary job function is not road patrol. These troopers make traffic stops and respond to emergencies as needed. These cars are equipped with emergency lights and siren.

All of the unmarked squads are legal as authorized by statute and the commissioner of public safety. Our statewide total fleet is 864 units, so we are well below the 10 percent limit of unmarked squads required by law.

We are putting more unmarked patrol cars on the road each year to help us identify violations such as texting and driving, no seat belt use and other unsafe operation. With distracted driving as one of the leading contributing factors in crashes on our roads, we are determined and committed to educating the public on the dangers of distraction.

I operated an unmarked squad car a few years ago, and I know that they are an effective tool for keeping Minnesota roads safe for everyone by reducing life-changing crashes.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at