Frequently Asked Questions

The Washington State Patrol remains committed to achieving excellence in public safety by striving to improve in professionalism and service to the public. Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions.

  • What are the approved traction devices and when should I use them?

    Answers to commonly asked traction questions are on our Traction Devices page or by going to WSDOT Winter Driving Tips page.

    Alternative Traction Devices certified by their manufacturer as meeting the requirements outlined in WAC 204-24-035 may be used as an approved traction device in Washington State. This list of approved devices can be found here.

  • Can a person ride a bicycle on Washington's state and interstate highways?

    Yes, except for “high density” areas of the state such as King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties which have signs posted at on-ramps to indicate if bicycles are prohibited.

  • Who is authorized to use HOV lanes?

    • Rubber tired municipal transit vehicles conforming to RCW 46.04.355
    • Buses with a capacity of sixteen or more, including operator
    • Motorcycles conforming to RCW 46.04.330
    • Recreational vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs
    • Other vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs (See RCW 46.61.165and 52.025).

    All trucks exceeding 10,000 lb. G.V.W. are prohibited from using HOV lanes at any time, except for tow trucks en route to an emergency on a specific roadway or roadside.

    The HERO Program operates a 24-hour telephone hotline (206) 764-HERO for reporting observed violations of the HOV lanes and ramps.

  • What is a VIN inspection and when am I required to have one done?

    Beginning July 1, 2001, vehicles brought into Washington from another state or country go through a stolen-vehicle screening process within the Department of Licensing before a Washington State title is issued. The new law eliminates the physical VIN inspection of an out-of-state vehicle by the Washington State Patrol.

    The Washington State Patrol will continue to perform physical inspections on rebuilt vehicles that were destroyed or declared a total loss by an insurance company. They will also perform inspections on homemade vehicles, stolen vehicles, vehicles without a proper VIN, vehicles with a VIN discrepancy, vehicles with a record or ownership dispute, and other special cases.

  • What will happen if a vehicle is identified as stolen?

    Under the law, if a vehicle is reported and identified as stolen, the Department of Licensing (DOL) will notify the owner that a physical inspection of the vehicle is required and forward the report to the Washington State Patrol for follow up. The owner has 30 days to get a vehicle inspection or the registration will be canceled and no title will be issued. The record will be flagged to prevent future registration until the vehicle’s status is resolved.

  • Is emissions testing required? Where can I get it done?

    Emissions testing is required in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties. For more information, see the Department of Ecology Web site.

  • My vehicle was towed/impounded? Where can I find it? Is there a charge?

    Call your local city or county law enforcement agency to determine which tow company has your vehicle. If your vehicle was impounded on a state or interstate route, call the local Washington State Patrol office. Once you have located your vehicle, you may contact the tow company directly.

  • How long can a vehicle remain abandoned on an interstate or state route?

    On most Washington roadways you have 24 hours before an abandoned vehicle is impounded. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Vehicles may be immediately impounded if a vehicle is a traffic hazard, in a position where it jeopardizes public safety, and/or obstructs traffic including snowplows. If a vehicle is abandoned on the left shoulder of a roadway (median), it is also subject to immediate impoundment. Vehicles may also be impounded if it is suspected to be stolen or potentially be targeted for theft if left along the roadway.

  • Can an off-road vehicle or motorcycle be licensed for street use in the state of Washington?

    For any vehicle with three or four wheels: No, in order for a vehicle to be street legal, the vehicle must meet the federal requirements for road use and be certified by the manufacturer to meet those standards. Therefore, the vehicle must be originally manufactured for road use in order to be licensed in Washington State.

    For a two-wheel motorcycle: Effective January 1, 2012, an off-road motorcycle that has two wheels, a seat designed to be straddled and handlebars for steering, and was labeled by the manufacturer as off road use only on the statement of origin, frame or owners manual may be licensed. A Converted off-road motorcycle may be licensed IF all required equipment is placed on the vehicle and certified by a licensed dealership or repair facility as complying with all federal and state laws and the owner files the proper declaration form and pays the fees required through the Department of Licensing (DOL). For more information please visit the DOL Web site at

  • How does the Washington State Patrol set fines for speeding and other traffic violations?

    The Washington State Patrol does not set fines for speeding and traffic violations. The base penalty is set by the Washington State Supreme Court (RCW 46.63.110) but does not include statutory assessments, which are set by the State Legislature.

    The “Monetary Penalty Schedule for Infractions” can be viewed from the Washington Courts Web site.

  • I lost my speeding ticket. How much do I owe and where do I send the fine?

    This can be a difficult question to answer. Fines are paid to different district and municipal courts, depending on which police agency issued the ticket (citation) and where it was issued.

    First, if you can locate the citation, you will find the name, address, and telephone number of the court to which you pay the fine. If you can’t find it but you know it was issued by the Washington State Patrol, contact the district court in the county where you received the citation (King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties have several district courts).

    If you received a citation from any other police agency or sheriff’s department, contact them for more information.

  • Where can I get a concealed weapons permit?

    The Washington State Patrol does not handle applications, but you can go to the office of your local sheriff or chief of police for one. See RCW 9.41.070.

    For additional questions or to obtain an application in advance, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing web site.

  • Does Washington recognize concealed weapons permits from other states?

    In 2004 Washington’s Firearms and Dangerous Weapons statute (RCW 9.41) was amended to allow non-Washington residents to carry concealed weapons in Washington if they have obtained a concealed weapons permit from another state that meets certain conditions imposed by Washington’s law. For additional questions or to obtain information on this law and the states that Washington currently recognizes, please go to the Attorney General web site.

    Additionally, Washington concealed pistol licenses will be recognized in the states listed on the Concealed License Permit Reciprocity list and well as possibly other states that do not require reciprocity. You will need to check the laws of the other state before traveling with your weapon.

    NOTE: Handguns must be carried in accordance with the law of the state you are visiting. Be sure to check the laws of the other state before traveling there with your handgun.

  • I travel a lot and have a concealed weapons permit from another state. How do I obtain a concealed weapons permit in your state?

    It is possible to obtain a non-resident concealed weapons permit. This process usually takes 60 days to complete. Applications may only be made at a law enforcement agency in Washington State. For additional questions or to obtain an application in advance contact the Washington State Department of Licensing.

  • Notification of Firearm Return to Family/Household Member FAQ

    What is the Sheena Henderson Act?

    In 2015, the Washington Legislature passed the Sheena Henderson Act (SSB 5381), creating a new section of law that allows a family or household member (as defined in RCW 26.50.010) to use an incident or case number to request to be notified when a law enforcement agency returns a privately owned firearm to the individual from whom it was obtained or to an authorized representative of that person.

    Who qualifies for firearms notifications?
    In order to qualify for notification of a firearm return you must be a family or household member of the individual from whom the firearm was taken. RCW 26.50.010 defines a family or household member as:
    • spouses or former spouses;
    • domestic partners or former domestic partners;
    • persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time;
    • adult persons related by blood or marriage;
    • adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past;
    • persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship;
    • persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship; and
    • persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.

    How do you request notification of firearms return to family/household members?
    The request for a notification of firearms return to a family/household member must be made to the law enforcement agency who took the firearm into custody through the process prescribed by that agency. For a Washington State Patrol (WSP) case, a request for notification can be made by completing this Firearm(s) Return Request Form and e-mailing it to or delivering it to one of the office locations listed at the bottom of the form.

    How will I be notified of a firearms return by the WSP under the Sheena Henderson Act?
    Washington State Patrol will notify a family/household member via e-mail, text message, or phone within one business day to the e-mail address or phone number provided. Notifications are considered complete once the message is sent to the requestor as outlined in the request for notification of firearm return form. The firearm will be returned to the owner or authorized person 72 hours after notification has been provided.

    What if my contact information changes?
    It is the responsibility of the requestor to ensure that the information provided in the request for notification is accurate and complete. If a phone number or e-mail address changes, a new request for notification of firearm return should be filled out to ensure that the proper contact information is on file.