WARNING TO PHONE AP USERS! SCANNER PHONE APS USED
WHILE MOBILE ARE JUST AS ILLEGAL AS A SCANNER IN THE MOBILE-SCANNER-REGULATED
STATES! (05/26/2011) -
Yes. You heard right. Apparently the same laws which regulate mobile scanner
usage are ALSO being applied to phone applications that are available which
allow users to monitor local police frequencies. While your phone itself is not
technically a "scanner", some states see the use of the downloadable
applications as effectively turning the phone INTO one. If you don't have a
ham license, or some form of permission slip, or some other form on exemption,
be forewarned that those scanner aps COULD lead you into trouble!
Okay, a few things here. While I'm not at all condoning the use of scanners
(and now..."apps") by criminals to commit a crime, nor am I complaining about a
criminal's "right to use" said devices to commit a crime (so don't go banging
me with emails about such a thing!), there are a number of grey areas being
stepped into here, which lawyers and police departments, and city, county,
state, and federal agencies need to consider...
First, phones are phones, not scanenrs. An "app" is available for anything
and everything under the sun. They're created by John Nobody Important who
knows nothing about how the laws regulating the use of LITERAL handheld
scanners might be consctrewed by some police agency to be considered the
equivalent of such a device. As I see it, the laws now out there don't
regulate "apps". They regulate the "LITERAL" scanning "RADIO", mounted in some
way either in your vehicle or on your person as to be considered "mobile".
APPS, on the other hand, can be installed simply, and their creators don't
unclude warnings about the use of such a thing because there IS no regulation
specifically FOR them at this time.
If any state is to use a "scanner law" against the use of a phone "app", then
those laws need to be REVISED to as to include their use. Most of these laws
were created BEFORE the invention of the cellphone and DEFINITELY WAY before
the invention of these brand new things called "apps", and so they were
definitely NOT designed to include them by the thinking of the legislators at
the time. This is a grey area where I foresee police departments and city,
county ,state, and federal agencies getting themselves into a LOT of trouble
over if someone decided to SUE them over that. I would advise caution on the
part of said agencies and departments where phone apps are concerned, and
begin redrafting current legislation so as to properly include verbiage
specifically including mobile telephone "applications". I'm not trying to be
an asshole, here. I'm just statiing the obvious, and trying to save
everybody on all sides a LOT of expense and wasted lawsuit time. THINK,
people. Keep a cool head, here.
Meantime, application end users should be aware of the problem out there.
Application designers and sellers should include statements warning
people about this, so as to cover their asses. And Police departments, and
other departments and agencies should NEVER, EVER "guess" about a law's
verbiage and how it was intended. We too often hear of officers doing such a
thing on the spot, and it's not right.
There are a lot of other people who never had a clue what a "scanner" was until
they came across the phone application, much less who are aware that some law
regarding something called a "scanner" could be wildly and quite deliberately
contorted to include something that the law at the time it was created was not
at ALL intended to include because they didn't at the time EXIST, especially if
that conclusion is reached by someone who is NOT a lawyer or a legislator or a
What does this bode for services such as
Incident Page Network (IPN), which
send text message summaries of things heard on scanners to pagers and
cellphones? Does this mean they're illegal, too? How far are people going
to interpret this to go? These services have been out there for YEARS with a
precedent of no one having ever done anything to stop THOSE services.
Could it be then said that the "precedence" set was that governments didn't
CARE, and thus by implication, their use was ALLOWED? I can go all night
Vague legislation can put an innocent person in jail, or at the least incur
unnecessary hefty fines on someone who doesn't deserve it. If you want to make
these things illegal, then SPECIFY it in the lawbooks, or else you're quite
literally "pulling a law out of your stiff-brimmed hat." (I was going to use
another word, but kids could be reading this.) Obstruction of justice" is one
thing. Penalizing innocent people who didn't know that a law intended for a
completely different object entirely could be applied to that cellphone they
just bought isn't fair or correct at all.
Todd Sherman, Webmaster
Mobile Scanner & RADAR-Detector Laws In The United States
May 26, 2011