Police Scanner Question

Police Scanner Question

This is a discussion on Police Scanner Question within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I have been listening to the local dispatch feed on a scanner app for my smartphone. I have heard that it is illegal to have ...

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Thread: Police Scanner Question

  1. #1
    Distinguished Member Array ericb327's Avatar
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    Police Scanner Question

    I have been listening to the local dispatch feed on a scanner app for my smartphone. I have heard that it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. Is this true? What about your home?

    They can legally be sold at Radio Shack. I would think scanners would be legal to possess.
    For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. (Sun Tzu) The Art of War

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  2. #2
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    Here's the specific KY law governing use of mobile scanners / devices capable of receiving authorized police frequencies:

    Mobile Scanner & RADAR-Detector Laws In The U.S. - Kentucky Scanner Law

    In Kentucky, the general public can not monitor police activity with such devices in their cars, but there are expections... including licensed Amateur Radio operators.
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  3. #3
    Distinguished Member Array ericb327's Avatar
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    Thanks but the law seems contradictory.

    (1) It shall be unlawful for any person except a member of a police department or
    police force or an official with written authorization from the head of a department
    which regularly maintains a police radio system authorized or licensed by the
    Federal Communications Commission, to have in his or her possession, or in an
    automobile or other vehicle, or to equip or install in or on any automobile or other
    vehicle, any mobile radio set or apparatus capable of either receiving or transmitting
    radio or other messages or signals within the wave length or channel now or which
    may hereafter be allocated by the Federal Communications Commission, or its
    successor, for the purpose of police radios, or which may in any way intercept or
    interfere with the transmission of radio messages by any police or other peace
    officers. It shall be unlawful for any car, automobile, or other vehicle other than one
    publicly owned and entitled to an official license plate issued by the state issuing a
    license for the car, to have, or be equipped with the sets or apparatus even though
    the car is owned by an officer. This section shall not apply to any automobile or
    vehicle owned or operated by a member of a sheriff's department authorized by the
    fiscal court to operate a radio communications system that is licensed by the Federal
    Communications Commission or other federal agency having the authority to
    license same. Nothing in this section shall preclude a probation and parole officer
    employed by the Department of Corrections from carrying on his person or in a
    private vehicle while conducting his official duties an authorized, state-issued
    portable radio apparatus capable of transmitting or receiving signals

    (4) Nothing contained in this section shall prohibit the possession of a radio by:
    (a) An individual who is a retailer or wholesaler and in the ordinary course of his
    business offers such radios for sale or resale;
    (b) A commercial or educational radio or television station, licensed by the
    Federal Communications Commission, at its place of business; or
    (c) An individual who possesses such a radio, provided it is capable of receiving
    radio transmissions only and is not capable of sending or transmitting radio
    messages, at his place of residence; licensed commercial auto towing trucks;
    newspaper reporters and photographers; emergency management agency
    personnel authorized in writing by the director of the division of emergency
    So if it can't transmit and is in my residence it's ok?
    For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. (Sun Tzu) The Art of War

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  4. #4
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    Correct.. Receivers at your home are fine.
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  5. #5
    Distinguished Member Array ericb327's Avatar
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    Excellent, Thank you. I'm legal.

    It can be quite entertaining and informative.
    For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. (Sun Tzu) The Art of War

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    When I was stationed in OK I used to listen to a scanner a lot of the time, it was always interesting to read the newspaper the next day to see if anything was written up especially if certain families were involved.
    When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
    "Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."

  7. #7
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    The entertainment value is impressive :)
    When I'm not slaving at my day job, I coordinate emergency communications for my county EMA, so in addition to the Ham radio gear, my truck's loaded up with commercial radios, programmed with pretty much every public service frequency in the state... so I've got access to way too much entertainment... even the encrypted stuff :) The biggest problem is too many microphones
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    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    I am no lawyer so do not take this as advice at all. But read the part in Bold:
    to have in his or her possession, or in an
    automobile or other vehicle, or to equip or install in or on any automobile or other
    vehicle, any mobile radio set or apparatus capable of either receiving or transmitting
    radio or other messages or signals within the wave length or channel
    now or which
    may hereafter be allocated by the Federal Communications Commission, or its
    successor, for the purpose of police radios, or which may in any way intercept or
    interfere with the transmission of radio messages by any police or other peace
    officers.
    An iPhone or smartphone using an app is not listening to the airwaves and picking the signal out of the air. In other words, you are not receiving the signal on the wavelength or channel from which it was broadcasted from the transmitter.

    I would say it is legal until the law is updated to reflect current technology. But again, it is up to you. Again, I am no lawyer but am very experienced in radios and communications
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by suntzu View Post
    I am no lawyer so do not take this as advice at all. But read the part in Bold:


    An iPhone or smartphone using an app is not listening to the airwaves and picking the signal out of the air. In other words, you are not receiving the signal on the wavelength or channel from which it was broadcasted from the transmitter.

    I would say it is legal until the law is updated to reflect current technology. But again, it is up to you. Again, I am no lawyer but am very experienced in radios and communications

    Definitely a gray area... specific wording may win a court case, but intent of the law can be difficult to define. I wouldn't want to be the test case :)
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  10. #10
    VIP Member Array suntzu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whoppo View Post
    Definitely a gray area... specific wording may win a court case, but intent of the law can be difficult to define. I wouldn't want to be the test case :)
    This would make a fine legal discussion LOL. Here is a link to a story about this issue. The first case is from IN but read further and there is a case in Kt

    Police on radio scanner apps: That's not a 10-4 - Technolog on msnbc.com

  11. #11
    Distinguished Member Array ericb327's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suntzu View Post
    This would make a fine legal discussion LOL. Here is a link to a story about this issue. The first case is from IN but read further and there is a case in Kt

    Police on radio scanner apps: That's not a 10-4 - Technolog on msnbc.com
    Thanks for the "Heads Up"!
    For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. (Sun Tzu) The Art of War

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  12. #12
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    Anything broadcast into the open air has no expectation of privacy. That's the reason your cell phone and wireless remote phones can be monitored without a "wiretap" warrent. I would think if push came to shove, the Supreme Court would agree with that in regard to police frequencies transmitted openly. Anyone want to test it?
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  13. #13
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    I know some states have laws against using them in cars, don't here in Texas
    I have a lot of friends and family that use these apps to listen to us, my mom and my wife listen every so often....when they can't sleep LOL

    unfortunately the criminals use them too, so much in fact that we changed how we dispatch alarms and some other calls so the locations and call types for some things are not put out on the radio

    funny story: we were "tracking" a known 2-time convicted felon, known burglar, known auto-burglar, as he was suspiciously driving around in neighborhoods around 4am nowhere near his house, several of us were in the area and would take turns picking him up track for a bit then hand him off to someone else, all while using an alternate channel, he was listening on his Iphone and called the PD to complain to a supervisor that we were harassing him

    now when we need to communicate about some stuff that we don't want going out over the scanners, we use the city parks channel
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