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Mobile Scanner and
[ICON: Scanner]
RADAR-Detector Laws

Regarding Federal Laws

  1. U.S. FEDERAL-level Laws Regarding Monitoring In General
  2. International Laws
  3. Regarding the Use Of Out-Of-Band-Capable Amateur Radio Transceivers

For United States FEDERAL-level Laws Regarding Monitoring In General...

For reference, here are:

  For a detailed discussion on these laws, see the section on LAWS GOVERNING RADIO MONITORING at David Stark, NF2G's site. From his main page, click on the link to his Scanning Pages. From there, you will be able to find his section on Laws Governing Radio Monitoring.

For International Laws...

  Covering all of the laws around the world which regulate the use of scanning and monitoring is an impossible task at best for one person, alone.

  Yet another fellow ham, Richard J. Wells/N2MCA, runs a web page called Strong Signals. Richard has a sub-page there called Scanner Laws which lists the laws in many other countries with regard to the use of scanners.

Regarding The Use Of Out-of-Band-Capable Amateur Radio Transcevers:

  One word: P.R. 91-36 (a.k.a. FCC 93-410 in the FCC Record).

  Regardless of what ANY local- (i.e., city/county) or state-level laws might say about ham transceivers capable of receiving police or related frequencies outside of their normal licensed range - for the ham, those laws do not apply. This, because the Federal Communications Commission actually preempted such laws in an Memorandum, Opinion and Order back in August of 1993. No law has ever been put forth by the FCC prohibiting such transceivers. No user has ever been prosecuted by the federal government for having such a capable transceiver; nor has any manufacturer been prosecuted for MAKING such a device. Finally, it is NOT illegal for anyone to monitor public service frequencies. To make such transceivers illegal under those lower-level laws would effectively render the whole amateur radio hobby illegal since out-of-band monitoring is a capability that most all modern ham transceivers have, and since most hams now own and USE such capable radios almost exclusively. Such laws also tend to encroach upon the regulatory playing field of the FCC. OOB-capable transceivers often are used to aid hams in the course of their public service duties, and this is in line with the goal of the hobby, per Part 97 Rules.

  P.R. 91-36 (cited as "FCC 93-410" in the FCC Record) does not in its current form cover SCANNERS owned and used by hams. It ONLY covers out-of-band-capable amateur radio transceivers.

  History. On November 14th, 1989, the American Radio Relay League - concerned about local and state scanner laws and how they not only tended to unfairly put hams at risk of arrest, and of equipment confiscation, but where hams were actually being arrested and their equipment confiscated (in states like New Jersey) - filed a Motion for Declaratory Ruling Concerning the Possession of Radio Receivers Capable of Reception of Police or Other Public Safety Communications.
  Originally, P.R. 91-36 was to deal with scanners and OOB-capable transceivers used by licensed hams; but somewhere along the way, that priority changed, and the ARRL decided to tackle only OOB-capable ham transceivers. I remember this because mine was one of the letters submitted on request to the ARRL in 1989 [and actually used in the original Request and referenced in the ensuing NOI in Footnote 16] - where, even though I was a licensed ham, my own BC-100XLT handheld scanner was very nearly confiscated by Ocean City PD officers. As far as my transceiver? ...It was a Midland model 13-510 2-meter mobile, capable of operation ONLY in the 144-148 MHz range, and it was NOT capable of any out-of-band monitoring or operation, whatsoever. So, really, my situation did not actually apply (to the final draft situation); and yet, it was used, anyway. Take a close look, also, at the title of the original ARRL Requst. You'll note that it actually refers to "radio receivers" and not to "transceivers." I don't remember any notice about this "adjustment" in thinking, myself. It just happened, somewhere along the way. As a result, I actually mistakenly believed, for some years, that PR 91-36 DID cover scanners used by hams. The reason for this change of thinking may have come from the fact that scanning, scannists, and any words relating to them were pretty much considered "taboo" subjects due to the "atmosphere" in Congress at the time; and the ARRL probably did not want to push it by asking for what it probably thought might be too much. However, had they done so, they could have killed two nasty birds with one stone, and prevented later harrassment of hams with scanners that has occured in the ten years since P.R. 91-36 came to be.
  On March 15th, 1990, the FCC issued a Public Notice on the matter, inviting public comment.
  On February 28th, 1991, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking additional comment to aid them in making a decision on the matter.
  Finally, on August 20th, 1993, the FCC adopted the Memorandum, Opinion and Order.

Mobile Scanner & RADAR-Detector Laws In The U.S.
by Todd L. Sherman / KB4MHH
Gainesville, Alachua Co., Fla.
E-mail: mobilescannerlaws@cox.net
Page Created: (About August, 1995.)
Last updated: July 24, 2013.


All information Copyright © 1995- by Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH.
All Rights Reserved. Except for personal use, no part of this publication
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