Welcome to Zip Scanners
My Cart: 0 items

Are Police Scanners Legal?

Yes, police scanners are legal to own and operate in the US.

 

For international police scanner laws visit visits here.

 

Airwaves in the US are considered public property and information sent over them does not presume privacy. This was established in the 1934 Communications Act. Some radio bands are blocked on scanners such as cell phone and some military bands where privacy is presumed, but all other frequencies are considered public. For an understanding of radio bands in the US and how they work please read Key Police Scanner Concepts & Overview.

 

While listening to radio bands on police scanners in legal in the US, there are 2 types of restrictions. These restrictions vary greatly from state to state as these are state laws, not federal laws. The restrictions center around:

 

    1. Use of a police scanner while driving
    2. Use of a police scanner in the furtherance of  a crime

US States That Restrict Police Scanner Use While Driving

US States where use of a police scanner while driving is restricted. US States where use of a police scanner while driving is restricted.

The image above shows the US states where there is legislation around using a scanner while driving.

Below is a link to each state's statute.

    1. Florida
    2. Indiana
    3. Kentucky
    4. New York
    5. Minnesota

 

While the nuances of these laws vary from state to state they all have the same gist:

 

You cannot use a police scanner while operating a motor vehicle.

 

These laws have been enacted to prevent users from listening to police communication to avoid speed traps. Most of these laws were intended for fuzz busters, but they also apply to scanners. Police scanner apps are also covered by most of these statues. However, as scanner apps are new, and there is pending litigation in several states, these laws will change as case law is made.


US States That Restrict Police Scanner Use In The Furtherance Of A Crime

US states where use of a scanner while committing a crime is illegal. US states where use of a scanner while committing a crime is illegal.

The image above shows the states where there is state level legislation around using a scanner in furtherance of a crime.

Below is a link to each state's statute.

 

    1. California
    2. New Jersey
    3. Michigan
    4. Oklahoma
    5. Rhode Island
    6. South Dakota
    7. Vermont
    8. Virginia
    9. Nebraska
    10. West Virginia

 

While the nuances of these laws vary from state to state they all have the same gist:

 

If you use a police scanner to monitor the police while committing a crime - you can be charged in addition to whatever other crime you are committing.

 

The penalties vary greatly from state to state. For example:

 

Vermont: 30 days in jail and $250 fine.

Rhode Island: 5 years and $5,000.

 

We should note that we are not attorneys and that you should consult an attorney as this document was created to give a background on the legality of police scanners only.


Leave a Reply

Sign Up for Our Newsletter:

Welcome to Zip Scanners

Checkout our Police Scanners View Police Scanners Now →