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Author Topic: HAM & scanner mobile receivers  (Read 5968 times)

Posts: 12

« on: November 26, 2002, 02:05:23 PM »

I have come across some draconian communication laws on mobile scanners.  Quite often the trooper stopping you will consider your HAM transceiver an illegal mobile scanner capable of receiving police signals and issue you a ticket.  He/she is not even willing to listen to your explanation of the law and how it excludes HAMS.  I was always under the impression that radio signals came under international law, not local law and anyone had the right to receive any signal on the air.  This would include police, FBI, CIA, etc. signals.  It is what you do with the information that can get you into trouble.  Am I correct?  

Posts: 28

« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2002, 02:17:03 PM »

Mobile scanner laws as presently written by the various states that have them specificially exclude Amateur Radio operators. Perhaps you'll have to explain to the officer that "ham" and "amateur radio" are the same thing. It seems to confuse many who are not close to the hobby. The reason for the exclusion, we'd like to hope, is that amateur radio operators represent a resource of emergency communicators trained and ready to respond with self-contained radio units that can extend emergency communications and don't have to rely on repeaters or satellites or any other third party technology to do it.

There are international radio plan agreements between members of the International Telecommunications Union, but they don't usurp each nation's ability to make its own laws. The government can ban scanners, amateur radio, broadcast or whatever -- if you let them.

Vern M.

Posts: 729


« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2002, 03:57:13 PM »

This was recently covered in great depth on The FCC ruling supposedly supercedes local laws that prohibit radios capable of receiving police fequencies. The FCC ruling reads, in effect, that we as hams have the right to have an amateur radio set in our vehicles that may be also capable of receiving public safety frequencies.

This is rather sticky. There is no license required in the USA to receive any radio transmission (except
cellular phones, which constitutes wire tapping.) Consequently, since there is no license issued for
listening, no blanket permit can be given to listen!

If the radio is indeed an amateur radio transceiver, capable of transmitting on the ham radio bands, then
the ruling is probably a safe bet, though proving it to a police officer who is not familiar with the rules
may could be difficult. If, however, it is just a scanner, and not a ham transmitter as well, the FCC ruling probably offers NO protection, since the ham license is valid only for ham radio, not for scanners.

Our ham license offers us one thing only - the right to transmit on amateur radio frequencies. It does not,
interestingly, offer us the right to listen on ham frequencies or anywhere else, since there IS no such
license for listening! For that reason, if you are using your ham transceiver to monitor police fequencies, I would bet the FCC ruling could be contested in court, possibly successfully, that you were using the radio as a police scanner and not as the authorized amateur radio. To my knowledge, that has not yet been tested in court.

Several states and localities have rulings against mobile scanners, for obvious reasons. Criminals use
them to track police so they can commit crimes without fear of being caught. (Undoubtedly a few hams do
the same thing, sadly, but we are a part of society and having a ham license does not separate us from

In many cases where these governments have rulings against mobile scanners, they have stood up in court.
Governments making such rulings usually do so with the assistance of attorneys who DO research the laws and try to write them to be successful. These laws are not written by the cop on the beat.

So the bottom line is -- it is an unknown. Many of the rules were written before ham radios came with         expanded VHF/UHF receiving capabilities, and were addressing only scanning mobile receivers, not         transmitters. The FCC is attempting to give us some exception to these laws, but the wording of the FCC    ruling does not appear to apply to scanning receivers - only to ham radios that "incidentally" cover PS        frequencies, and that __are being used as ham radio__ not as police scanners!  The ruling does NOT grant us blanket scanner operation!  Only operation of a ham radio which is also capable of scanning PS channels.  

(Incidentally, in the event you are confronted by an officer concerning this, a piece of advice is to cooperate.  Also, use the term "amateur radio operator" instead of "ham radio" as too many people, including police officers, discern no difference between "ham radio" and "CB.")  

With that in mind - caution is advised. Know your local laws and the laws of areas in which you travel. Even if you are finally proved in the right, your radio may be confiscated and you may receive a fine, resulting in some inconvenience before the situation is resolved in your favor.


Posts: 48


« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2002, 07:39:23 PM »

All states that have mobile scanner laws specifically exempt amateurs (at least when using an amateur tranciever that can also recieve police frequencies).  Have a printout of the regulations with you, with the amateur exemption highlighted, and a copy of your amateur radio licence if you're worried.  If you don't provide a calm and rational explination, you're unlikely to gain any sympathy with the officer involved.  If they still persist, go along with them, but get their badge and vehicle number and complain to the authorities later on.

Posts: 63

« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2002, 08:39:08 AM »

My understanding is that the FCC allows our amateur equipment to receive on adjacent frequencies.  We are not necessarily allowed to use "scanners", but our transceivers capable of receiving out of band are legal per the FCC, regardless of state or local law.  Always keep a copy of your license with you when you travel.

See the following info at the ARRL:

Posts: 254

« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2002, 11:27:28 AM »

The FCC has ruled:

"For these reasons, we [the FCC] find it necessary to preempt state and local laws that effectively preclude the possession in vehicles or elsewhere of amateur service transceivers by amateur operators merely on the basis that the transceivers are capable of reception on public safety, special emergency, or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law.37 We find that, under current conditions and given the types of equipment available in the market today, such laws prevent amateur operators from using their mobile stations to the full extent permitted under the Commission's Rules and thus are in clear conflict with federal objectives of facilitating and promoting the Amateur Radio Service. We recognize the state law enforcement interest present here, and we do not suggest that state regulation in this area that reasonably attempts to accommodate amateur communications is preempted.38 This decision does not pertain to scanner laws narrowly tailored to the use of such radios, for example, for criminal ends such as to assist flight from law enforcement personnel. We will not, however, suggest the precise language that must be contained in state and local laws. We do find that state and local laws must not restrict the possession of amateur transceivers simply because they are capable of reception of public safety, special emergency or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law, and that a state or local permit scheme will not save from preemption an otherwise objectionable law.39 Finally, we note, as stated by APCO in comments filed previously in this proceeding, that any public safety agency that desires to protect the confidentiality of its communications can do so through the use of technology such as scrambling or encryption."

Any questions?

Posts: 254

« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2002, 11:30:20 AM »

As a matter of law, the FCC has concluded:


"We hold that state and local laws that preclude the possession in vehicles or elsewhere of amateur radio service transceivers by amateur operators merely on the basis that the transceivers are capable of the reception of public safety, special emergency, or other radio service frequencies, the reception of which is not prohibited by federal law, are inconsistent with the federal objectives of facilitating and promoting the amateur radio service and, more fundamentally, with the federal interest in amateur operator's being able to transmit and receive on authorized amateur service frequencies. We therefore hold that such state and local laws are preempted by federal law".

Any questions?
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