State investigates dealerships that sold too many cars during lockdown, but released car thieves early from prison


This editorial is brought to you by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

SEATTLE, WA – When people consider their tax dollars going to work regarding criminal investigations, they may think of investigating robberies, homicides, perhaps assaults.

But is “investigating” car dealerships that sold a suspicious number of cars during Washington state’s lockdown a good allocation of investigative resources?

Folks, we’ve seen everything from odd, to questionable, to conspiratorial, to insanity during the recent pandemic. Well, welcome to insanity version 2.0, courtesy of the Department of Licensing in Washington state.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-home order, which was recently extended to May 31st, was put into place on March 23rd. One of the elements attributed to the stay-home order was placing some intense restrictions on the sale of cars via dealerships.

Car dealerships were technically allowed to sell cars, but only under very strict circumstances. For context, here were the rules set into place for dealerships to sell anyone a car:

  • If the dealerships were closing a pending transaction that began before the governor’s order
  • If the dealerships were replacing a totaled vehicle or damaged vehicle that is impractical to repair
  • If they were extending an expired lease
  • If they were selling a vehicle to an essential worker if that worker had no other means of transportation

So, what the DOL found was that there were 25 car dealerships that managed to process in excess of 100 vehicle title applications between April 1st and April 16th and that apparently raised some red flags with the DOL.

These dealerships actually received letters from the DOL that contained the following preface:

“It appears your business…is conducting business outside of the directives in Governor Inslee’s Stay Home – Stay Healthy Proclamation.”

The crazy, and threatening, letter even noted this gem:

“Violators of the Governor’s Proclamation may be subject to criminal penalties.”

There is so much nonsense here to unpack.

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First of all, car dealerships are typically open-air environments that are generously spaced out. When is the last time you were getting dangerously close to bumping elbows with someone in a car dealership?

Now sure, there’s the paperwork element of signing documents inside their office, but exactly how is that environment more dangerous than your typical passed-through aisles of the big-box retailers that are allowed to stay open?

Even the interiors of car dealerships are generously spaced out, and interior portions will have you even more distanced from someone you’re sitting opposite of when filling out paperwork as opposed to your interactions with a local cashier at Wal-Mart.

It gets better though.

Dealerships have 45 days to process title transactions in Washington state.

Meaning that these submitted title transactions that occurred up until the 16th of April could have been started as early as March 2nd if submitted on the date of April 16th. Some submitted title transactions could have been going through the process even as early as February 16th if they were finished processing on April 1st – over a month before the stay-home order was even a thing.

Not to mention, the complete lunacy of the concept that only “essential workers” are allowed to purchase a new car so long as they have “no other means of transportation.” Meaning that only people that have certain jobs are allowed to buy cars for a specified period of time.

The DOL has requested that these car dealerships explain the circumstances behind these transactions.

Oh, and if they’re found to have sold a car outside of the bounds of the governor’s executive order, then individuals could be facing some jail time.

The DOL literally has the authority to pursue a criminal penalty against violators which could result in up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

For selling a car…that someone wanted to purchase.

Now, here’s some perspective.

In the very same state, the governor commuted nearly 300 prison inmates’ sentences and had them released over fears of the pandemic as of April 21st. Some of these inmates were convicted of car theft, illegal possession of a firearm and drug charges.

So, stealing cars gets you released from prison early over the pandemic. But selling a car legally can get you landed in jail. Where’s the logic in that?

You seriously couldn’t make this stuff up. This nonsense is looking less and less like America each day and becoming more like something out of a John Carpenter movie.


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