1. #1
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    Question Mobile Police Scanners - Legal?

    I have heard some conflicting information about hand held/mobile police scanners. Are they legal to have or not? If not, why? What is the difference between a at home scanner that you often see citizens have in their homes and one you could carry in your car? (note: I have no idea why a citizen would even carry one in their car but still ask the question so I have a full picture). Thank you.

  2. #2
    Oh You Didnt Know

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    *** NOT LEO***

    Not sure about other states but here in MI its a no-no.

    Its kind of a no brainer. Lets say you want to go committ a crime. So your committing the crime and u here on your mobile scanner the cops are comming. Why dont we just make all crime legal too. I BELIEVE the home scanners are ok because its like listening to a radio. I was told to watch what I say when I get on the radio because anyone can be listening but I would assume the reason you cant take a mobile (unless an leo) is because it could be considered a tool helping you in your crime

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    Scanners (the technical term in law is a police radio signal receiver) in a vehicle, either mounted or portable are illegal in Kentucky. The main reason is so that criminals can't monitor the police radio traffic while committing or preparing to commit a crime. At home, you can do little to interfere with the police, but in your car, you are more likely to drive by crime/accident scenes interfering or just getting in the way of the police.

    The news media and wreckers are exempt from the scanner regulation because of the types of jobs they have.
    Last edited by jricks; 10-09-2005 at 10:30 PM.

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    Perfectly legal in GA.

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    Legal in VT as long as it's not used in the commission of a crime.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vtfuzz
    Legal in VT as long as it's not used in the commission of a crime.
    Same in Virginia. It's illegal if used to further a crime.
    Blame it on the Trunk Monkey!!!

  7. #7
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    Illegal in NYS

    It's illegal in New York State. It's also somewhat irrational. It's perfectly legal to have one in your home, or a portable one as you walk down the street. Just not in a MV.

    So, while the perp is prying open the back door from the alley, he is entitled to listen to police radios, just not while driving there.
    You can now follow me on twitter.

  8. #8
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    Wow, interesting. Thanks for the info. Would have never thought about using such a thing to help a crime but when you explain it, I can see the problem. Maybe that is how some guys stay one step ahead of the law.

    So then how do officers communicate on their radio's without giving away what they are doing and where they are headed? Even people at home could hear about a possible burglar down the street and head over to see what's up like many do with fires etc. (trust me, we all know there are those that following just about anything).

    Amazing what the average crook will do to get ahead.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norm357
    Perfectly legal in GA.
    I thought they were only legal if you kept them at home. I'm gonna have to look that up now lol.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScrapinPT
    *** NOT LEO***

    Not sure about other states but here in MI its a no-no.
    blah, blah, blah...
    This is a prime example why this forum is called "Ask a Cop" and not "Ask a non-LEO" Hand held scanners are perfectly legal in Michigan. However, one must have a permit to possess any type of scanner in a vehicle.
    Michigan Compiled Laws
    750.508 Equipping vehicle with radio able to receive signals on frequencies assigned for police purposes; permit required; exceptions; misdemeanor; penalty; radar detectors not applicable.

    Sec. 508.

    (1) Any person who shall equip a vehicle with a radio receiving set that will receive signals sent on frequencies assigned by the federal communications commission of the United States of America for police purposes, or use the same in this state unless the vehicle is used or owned by a peace officer, or a bona fide amateur radio operator holding a technician class, general, advanced, or extra class amateur license issued by the federal communications commission, without first securing a permit so to do from the director of the department of state police upon application as he or she may prescribe, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
    Last edited by JHoek; 10-10-2005 at 03:43 PM.

  11. #11
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    Legal in MA but due to the changes being made with frequencies they will be of little use in near future unless you cough up the big bucks for the more modern scanners. ther is a article on this site that will explain alot better than I can BTW hey to all its been a while sience I ve visited due to personal reasons
    www.scanboston.com
    "If there must be trouble let it be in my day,that my child may have peace."
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    Mobile Police Scanners-Legal?

    Legal in Alabama, but I don't recommend you starting to show up at accidents or crime scenes. I wouldn't invest a whole lot of money in any type scanner at present as many LE agencies are going to encrypted frequencies. This will make many current scanners obsolete.

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    As a side note, under Federal (FCC) law, it is a crime to tell any person what you have heard on a scanner.
    "A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself."
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  14. #14
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    If you are a licensed ham radio operator you can listen to a scanner in your car anywhere in the country.

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    RabbitMPD - Do you or another officer know where I could find the law pertaining to ham radio operators being able to carry a scanner in a motor vehicle?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidP71
    RabbitMPD - Do you or another officer know where I could find the law pertaining to ham radio operators being able to carry a scanner in a motor vehicle?
    This is a big read but this should hold you over for a while. I will dig out some better links tomorrow but it's about my bedtime. Here are a few things I pulled out to sum it up:

    P.R. 91-36

    5. Concerning the broader issue, ARRL argues that amateur operators have special needs for broadscale "out-of-band" reception, and that the marketplace has long recognized these needs by offering accommodating transceivers. According to ARRL,13 all commercially manufactured amateur service HF transceivers and the majority of such VHF and UHF transceivers have non-amateur service frequency reception capability well beyond the "incidental" -- they can receive across a broad spectrum of frequencies, including the police and other public safety and special emergency frequencies here at issue. This additional capability, argues ARRL, permits amateur operators to participate in a variety of safety activities, some in conjunction with the military or the National Weather Service. In both cases, reception on non-amateur frequencies is necessary. Such activities benefit the public, according to ARRL, especially in times of emergency,14 and some require the mobile use of the amateur stations.15 ARRL states that, in addition, the vast majority of amateur operators take part in these mobile activities, and that the widespread enforcement of scanner laws would render illegal the possession of virtually all modern amateur mobile equipment.16 ARRL states that, as a result of scanner laws, "several dozen instances of radio seizure and criminal arrest [have been] suffered by licensed amateurs."17
    12. For these reasons, we find it necessary to preempt state and local laws that effectively preclude the possession in vehicles or elsewhere of amateur service transceivers by amateur operators merely on the basis that the transceivers are capable of reception on public safety, special emergency, or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law.37 We find that, under current conditions and given the types of equipment available in the market today, such laws prevent amateur operators from using their mobile stations to the full extent permitted under the Commission's Rules and thus are in clear conflict with federal objectives of facilitating and promoting the Amateur Radio Service. We recognize the state law enforcement interest present here, and we do not suggest that state regulation in this area that reasonably attempts to accommodate amateur communications is preempted.38 This decision does not pertain to scanner laws narrowly tailored to the use of such radios, for example, for criminal ends such as to assist flight from law enforcement personnel. We will not, however, suggest the precise language that must be contained in state and local laws. We do find that state and local laws must not restrict the possession of amateur transceivers simply because they are capable of reception of public safety, special emergency or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law, and that a state or local permit scheme will not save from preemption an otherwise objectionable law.39 Finally, we note, as stated by APCO in comments filed previously in this proceeding, that any public safety agency that desires to protect the confidentiality of its communications can do so through the use of technology such as scrambling or encryption.40
    13. We hold that state and local laws that preclude the possession in vehicles or elsewhere of amateur radio service transceivers by amateur operators merely on the basis that the transceivers are capable of the reception of public safety, special emergency, or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law, are inconsistent with the federal objectives of facilitating and promoting the amateur radio service and, more fundamentally, with the federal interest in amateur operator's being able to transmit and receive on authorized amateur service frequencies. We therefore hold that such state and local laws are preempted by federal law.
    14. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the request for a declaratory ruling filed by the ARRL IS GRANTED to the extent indicated herein and in all other respects IS DENIED.
    I hope this helps. I know it isn't exactly what you were expecting but the only sources I have avilable to me right now is in books. I will try to find a better link for you tomorrow.

  17. #17
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    Ham Radio Geeks

    The following is the complete text of section 397 of the New York State vehicle and traffic law. This section governs the use of mobile scanners in motor vehicles. Following the statute is a brief summary of the case law relevant to this section.

    397. EQUIPPING MOTOR VEHICLES WITH RADIO RECEIVING SETS CAPABLE OF RECEIVING SIGNALS ON THE FREQUENCIES ALLOCATED FOR POLICE USE.

    A person, not a police officer or peace officer, acting pursuant to his special duties, who equips a motor vehicle with a radio receiving set capable of receiving signals on the frequencies allocated for police use or knowingly uses a motor vehicle so equipped or who in any way knowingly interferes with the transmission of radio messages by the police without having first secured a permit to do so from the person authorized to issue such a permit by the local governing body or board of the city, town or village in which such person resides, or where such person resides outside of a city, or village in a county having a county police department by the board of supervisors of such county, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. Nothing in this section contained shall be construed to apply to any person who holds a valid amateur radio operator's license issued by the federal communications commission and who operates a duly licensed portable mobile transmitter and in connection therewith a receiver or receiving set on frequencies exclusively allocated by the federal communications commission to duly licensed radio amateurs.
    Last edited by nypdauxsgt; 12-12-2005 at 01:11 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nypdauxsgt
    Hey Fellow Ham Radio Geeks,

    Below you will find the law from New York State that allows us Hams to have "scanners" in their cars. But we all know that REAL hams have a HAM RADIO in their car..AND REAL HAMS will have a CW key hooked up to it!!!!
    Real hams don't bother with "scanners".

    73 es gud DX sk
    CW key in the car??? Not for me! But then again after passing the tests I never used CW again. And yes, I am ashamed to admit that. Anyway, thanks for the info.

    73 de KB9***

    Oh yeah I forgot to mention. I think I read or heard somewhere that Ham Radio operators can wear headphones while driving in a vehicle as well.

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