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Are hi-vis vest riders impersonating police?

Hi-vis vest

Can wearing a hi-vis vest actually lead riders to being prosecuted for impersonating police?

motorcycle clothingSome hi-vis motorcycle vests could have you mistaken as a police officer. It is no surprise then that motorbike riders are concerned that the mandatory wearing of hi-vis clothing may expose them to potential criminal liability for police impersonation.

In most countries, you are deemed impersonating an officer if you wear a similar uniform for the purpose of deception or committing a crime.

If not, then you should be ok. Still, there are some bike riders who are disinclined to wear hi-vis gear for various reasons, one of which is the concern about being seen as impersonating an officer.

So we asked motorcycle lawyer Tina Davis of East Coast Lawyers for the Australian interpretation of the law and this is what she wrote:

What does the law say?

In the Australian state of Victoria, the wearing of hi-vis clothing is mandatory for learner riders. However, the law in Victoria is very strict when it comes to impersonating police or protective service officers.  Simply, it states that, “A person who is not a police officer, protective services officer or police recruit must not, in any way, hold himself or herself out to be a police officer, protective services officer or police recruit”.

If found guilty there is a hefty fine of up to $18,200.40, a term of imprisonment for 1 year, or both.

Fortunately, Victoria is the only state that currently imposes the mandatory requirement for hi-vis while riding a motorcycle.

The law in Queensland states that, “a person, who being other than an officer lawfully entitled to do so, wears the uniform of an officer, or a colourable imitation thereof, is guilty of an offence”.

There are three exemptions to this rule: ”except with the consent of the commissioner, or for the purposes of a theatrical circus or similar entertainment, or for the purposes of a ball, carnival or similar occasion for wearing fancy dress.”

If guilty, the fine is up to $11,385.00.

Recent police impersonation cases

To date, our research has not revealed any cases where a rider wearing hi-vis clothing has been charged with impersonating a police officer.

But police impersonation is a lot easier than you think. A recent case involved two men who used a downloaded emergency service “siren” application to impersonate traffic police.

In April 2015, a father and son were robbed by offenders impersonating police officers. They were then assaulted before the offenders left with a wallet and mobile phone. 

Police cops speed speedingThe purpose of police uniforms

The purpose of a police or emergency services uniform is to make it easy for the public to quickly distinguish. To have multiple hi-vis riders on the road looking like police officers tends to undermine the purpose of the police uniform.

What can I do if I am mistaken for a police officer?

Be calm and explain your situation. Do not be aggressive or overly argumentative. A police officer needs a reasonable suspicion to charge you with police impersonation, but the proper procedure is to simply comply and then fight it in court later. Trying to resist may expose you to an obstruction charge.Hi-vis motorcycle clothing

What other situations will I need to protect my legal rights?

Do not approach someone directly who may initially mistake you for being a police officer. There is always a chance that they may react defensively. Maintain some distance while you clarify the situation.

On the road, always be alert to other drivers and how they might react. Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles while riding and avoid following too closely. If you are riding behind them and they suddenly slow down and pull over, try to safely pass them.

  • The information in this article is provided by Tina Davis in conjunction with Bond University JD law student Kristoffer Ryan Famaran Diocampo. Tina and her husband, Richard, will be riding along the coast of Croatia later this year. If you have any questions about your legal rights, you can email Tina or contact her at 1300 720 544. Kristoffer focuses on individual rights under both Canadian and Australian law. He has an interest in the VLAD laws in Queensland as well as legal rights for motorbike riders affected by another driver’s negligence.
  1. I have about as much sympathy for someone who gets pulled up wearing one of these things
    as someone who goes out of their way to look like an outlaw club member
    Then screams blue murder when they are mistaken for one

  2. Mark,
    Another brilliant article.
    I am a council employee and sometimes council duties force me to have to work at night, that means having to get dressed like a disco ball in my bright fluro green vest and its night reflective stripes.
    When dressed like this, the driver of an approaching vehicle would find it difficult to differentiate between what I am or what could be an RBT or speed trap…..
    Either which way, it makes for a good laugh when you see the looks of relief as they drive past….
    I dearly doubt that any cop would try and book you for impersonating an officer of the law unless you were actually doing something that only a cop is allowed to do…
    Pete made a good comment about being mistaken for an outlaw bikie…….. I just can’t for the like of me work out why someone that wants to be taken seriously would want to look like that!
    They dress like that because their low IQ mates do, and their mates dress like that because they are too scared to wear safe protective clothing, it would make look weak.
    You want to attract flys – dress like sh#t….
    Being of the same young age as yourself Mark, I find that bodily repair takes far to long, so I dress to protect, I may not look cool but skin grafts and dissfigured limbs dont look so cool either.
    Stay safe……

    1. There is nothing too petty for some police to pull you over for
      otherwise there would not be the ongoing stupidity over tinted visors
      and cameras
      As far as ‘just for laughs” i know i’d be more than just a little ticked off
      if some idiot decided to play “copper” while i was cruising my favourite
      road at an illegal speed. There are already too many real ones.
      I think you may be setting yourself up for some real road rage.

      1. Sorry Phil,
        I don’t remember saying anything about “playing copper”….the thought crossed my mind many years ago of becoming one, thank God I was not smart enough to pass the exams…
        I must admit though, I do think the camera issue is a bit petty, as do some cops, but there will always be rambos out there that will want to push their power limits, same as there will always be those that will want to push the speed limits and bitch when they get caught.
        Dark visors, I have often wondered why someone would want to hide behind a ridiculusly dark visor!
        Maybe they are not very pretty!
        I myself prefer to wear a good set of sunnies under my visor…….everybody to their own I guess.
        As for getting “ticked off” if you were scared into slowing down to a “legal” speed by a hi vis vest, that is a worry in itself, and if it is going to cause road rage – posties beware…..
        Life is too short – lighten up Phil.
        Stay safe.

  3. I just bought a hi-vis Triumph Expedition jacket to go with my White BMW, white helmet and black pants. Wonder if someone will think I’m impersonating. I imagine I look a lot like the guys in the pictures above. But I bought the gear at my local shop–the bike was second hand (so I had little say in the colour), the jacket was marked down a lot and seemed like a safe choice, the dealer said that white helmets are most noticed by drivers so it seemed like a safe choice, and the pants are black because in Australia that is about all you can buy. Maybe I should forego my plans to strap a phone holster to my left thigh.

  4. I wear a white helmet with a Hi-vis vest.. Oh and I the get hard look (Is it a cop ? or Isn’t it a cop?) No its just a motorcyclist, They see me! < That's the point!

  5. I ride a (Columbia) Blue Honda Goldwing, Yellow/lime green Fluro Vest and BLACK Helmet. The way some drivers move out of my way, I’ve thought “They think I might be a Cop”. I have (and will) NEVER try to have them see me as a Cop.
    In the last something over 30 years I’ve met some good Police Officers doing their duty. I have on two occasions been harassed and given the third degree by other Police Officers.
    One such occasion in the Lower Hunter Valley not far from Newcastle NSW was I was asked three times within 5 minutes “Is this your Bike?” and I replied “Yes it is … is there a problem?” then asked “What did I do to be pulled over?” One was not happy I asked them questions and started “Where are you going? then while holding my HR Drivers / Rider Licence “Is the address shown here your current address”. As I had moved house some weeks prior I replied “No, but the sticker on the back is correct”. It seemed he was none too pleased and he asked more than a dozen questions of where I was coming from, where I was going and the reason for each trip.
    I had the impression that they may be out to arrest someone for anything and if I played their game I would have a ride in their vehicle in a set of bracelets and an introduction so some of their workmates.
    In all it took over 15 & maybe 20 minutes before I was again under way. As I moved out into the traffic I had a tail for the next 20Km. I was dotting every “i” and crossing every “T” in the 60Km/h zone I was doing 55 and likewise in all the other forever changing speed zones I was under the posted speed limit.

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