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[ Popular Communications, June, 2001 ]

MSRDL site gets quick mention in Popular Communications magazine!

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



[Places where scanners are restricted.]

- Red indicates use illegal without an FCC license, or permission.
- Orange indicates legislation is being proposed, but use is currently legal.
- Green indicates use illegal in furtherance of a crime.
- Gray indicates no currently known legislation.

What does this mean? Well, for most of us, we only need to pay attention to those states marked in red. For all intents and purposes, the rest can be considered "gray."

Should you become aware of a new state law in the books, or of one that currently exists that we don't know about, let us know immediately and we'll put it up here as soon as possible.


If scanners are known to be either illegal or restricted in any states they will be listed below, with links to the text of the law, if known. If a state is NOT listed below, there is NO known scanner law.

NOTE: The blinking "UPDATED" icon indicates that either the law has changed OR the law has at least been checked for changes to be sure it is current - even if no changes were found.

Color Coding Scheme for BELOW: If it's fine for the public to use a mobile scanner, but not okay to use in a crime, then the word "illegal" will be colored green. If the law is just too vague or otherwise not-too-intelligently written to accurately or safely interpret, then it's colored a shameful orange. (If you're a legislator, and your state got an orange color, then it's time for you to retire because you're just too confusing to be in office, now. You should hang it up.) If it's illegal for everyone (without some specific exemption or permission), then the word will be red.

COOL? Cool. Alrighty then! So, let's go...

  • California - (verified 2012) - Use illegal in furtherance of a crime.

  • Florida - (verified 2012) - Use Illegal installed or transported in vehicles unless you are either a licensed alarm system contractor, member of Press ON ASSIGNMENT (*note* that), licensed amateur radio operator, or citizen with written permission from Chief of Police or Sheriff or Chief of Fire Department of your community.

  • Indiana - (verified 2019) - Use illegal while mobile. Hams exempted. Includes use of a handheld scanner on a pedestrian, as well.

  • Kentucky - (verified 2012) - Use illegal while mobile unless licensed by the FCC. Seizure by officers authorized for infraction, and may be destroyed. Exempted: retailers/wholesalers selling capable radios; commercial, educational, or TV stations used at place of business; individual at his place of residence; commercial towing trucks; newspaper reporters/photographers on duty; disaster & emergency services personnel with written permission by state director of emergency services; person holding valid amateur radio license issued by FCC; peace officers authorized in writing by their agency head; Commonwealth and county attorneys and their assistants. Shall not be used to facilitate crime, or to avoid apprehension.

  • Michigan - (verified 2012) - In Michigan scanner possession is now okay. HOWEVER, Use in furtherance of a crime, OR POSSESSION BY FELONS, is illegal. HAMS, however, seem to be exempted (though that wording seems dunsel now), AND, hams would seem to be exempt from the possession by felons / commission during a crime thing. Not what I think the legislators MEANT, but, it's in there, nonetheless. LOL. Seriously. Go look. ;o) (posted 6/7/09)

  • Minnesota - (verified 2012) - Mobile scanners illegal except for police and FCC-licensed amateur radio operators or with permission from Superintendant of Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Use in furtherance of felony illegal.

  • Nebraska - (verified 2012) - Seems to say Illegal to use a scanner on person or in vehicle to interfere with police comms, to evade arrest, or for monetary or personal gain; but peace officers, Press, and those with written permission are exempt from this law, and thus, are allowed to use the scanner to those ends. (No kidding! Read it! As it stands, that's exactly how it's interpreted! To Nebraska legislators: I suggest just removing the exemptions, altogether, since the law would seem to apply ONLY to those using scanners in the commission of a CRIME in some way.) This law gets a nice, cautious ORANGE color coding because I'm not exactly sure HOW to interpret their statute, really; and I want to be safe. COULD be okay for the general public to have one; then again, might NOT be. Could lead to interpretation problems. Here, wording too indecisive.

  • New Jersey - (2009 law) - Use in furtherance of crime illegal.

  • New York - (2002 law) - Possession illegal for anyone without permit.

    The wording of the last paragraph of the NY law is kinda confusing to me. I'm not exactly sure WHAT it really "exempts." The last paragraph would APPEAR to exempt amateur transceivers, but from what? It doesn't, in plain english, appear to exempt them from having transceivers capable of scanning out-of-band, or even from using scanners. A few re-reads actually seems to say to ME that your mobile ham radio can scan all it wants, but if it scans OUTSIDE of the ham bands ... well then, y'er Bantha poo-doo.

    Using the current reading, the ham would appear to be exempted from ... absolutely nothing at all. It's the use of that word "AND" so much which contributes to screwing up the interpretation of the whole law.

    Perhaps they should replace the words "...and in connection therewith a receiver..." with the words "...and used IN CONJUNCTION THEREWITH an external receiver...". But then, it STILL restricts hams to receiving ONLY those frequencies in the ham bands. Even worded THAT way, it would STILL exempt hams from ... absolutely nothing.

    The ONLY thing this law appears to be doing - with regard to amateur radio - is to actually USURP and PRECLUDE the exclusive regulatory domain of the Federal Communications Commission by saying that licensed hams are allowed to use their ham radios in NY. The FCC is the sole regulating entity for communications services, and not the State of New York.

    My friend Dave Stark/NF2G, advises that there is past case law (People v. Beatson [1997], (see David Beatson's page here, describing what happened) Suffolk County First District Docket # 44993-97S, Judge Barbara Kahn) where the judge ruled that the law does indeed exempt hams. But to Joe Average Citizen, what the heck is case law, anyway? Joe Average Anyone has no clue what the words "case law" mean, and they have no clue where to find it - and this INCLUDES Joe Average NY POLICE OFFICER! (I've NEVER seen an officer pull a law book out of the trunk which book INCLUDED the relevant case law, too. As well, they usually take FOREVER to update those books; and it is THOSE BOOKS IN THE TRUNK that the officers go by. On top of that, the officers don't have time to play "Judge" on the street. They simply interpret the law that they read LITERALLY.) Regardless of the existence of any case law reference showing a person to be in legal possession of a scanner in NY, as long as people and officers don't know about it, and as long as it's not plainly clear right there in the law books to begin with, then people will still be stopped, they'll still be ticketed, their equipment may still be possibly confiscated, and they'll still have to make a court appearance before the situation is finally clarified, and for the judge to then even notice that case law...and that's if the lawyer was good enough to look for it. That is absolutely rediculous, and a huge inconvenience for everyone for a law which - as I believe it does - is supposed to exempt hams. I, personally, think its current wording tends to give the impression that New York legislators don't really care much about making sure that their laws are clear from the start, and/or about what effects that their own illiteracy can have upon the public.

    Thus, in my personal opinion, NY is a very dangerous state for hams. So watch out.

    (sigh!) If this ever does prove to be a problem for any hams, here is the FCC's document called P.R. Docket 91-36 (a.k.a., FCC 93-410). In it, the FCC holds that lower-level laws restricting the usage out-of-band-capable transceivers by licensed hams are preeempted by federal law. Should your transceiver ever be confiscated for scanning out-of-band of the ham freqs, use this, and and it should get you out of trouble. I recommend printing out the PDF version from the ARRL (linked to from there), and not my own HTML-ified version (a reading convenience). The PDF version comes straight from the FCC Record. It's likely that this STILL will not prevent a ticket and/or confiscation; but now you have something to take with you to the courtroom, later, at least. (Note that PR 91-36 ONLY applies to the use of OOB-capable amateur transceivers, and not to scanners.)

    Final verdict on this law? ...BE CAREFUL. It's ham exemption is not too clear. New York gets a very shameful orange warning flag, here.

  • Oklahoma - (2002 law) - Illegal to use in furtherance of crime.

  • Rhode Island - (2002 law) - Use by convicted criminals on their person or while mobile illegal

  • South Dakota - (2015 Law) - Illegal used while committing a felony. This law is in the process of being repealed as of Spring, 2015, and the new wording makes it more clear that use in the furtherance of a crime would be illegal. You can check the Bill Status using the link, below...

    We will update the link to the new SD law when the SD government web site dixes their currently broken link to the entire 23rd Chapter.

  • Vermont - (2002 law) - Illegal used in furtherance of a crime.

  • Virginia - (2002 law) - Illegal used in furtherance of a felony.

  • West Virginia - (2001 law) - Illegal used in furtherance of a crime.

    When done browsing here, please take a look at my own
    North Fla. Area Scannist's Page!

    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: September 23, 2019.


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