Busted for scanner in vehicle

Jun 3, 2004
DTW (Dearborn, MI)
General Question,

Has anyone here ever recieved a ticket for having a scanner in your vehicle (without a ARRL license) while tracking storms. Just curious as I bought a scanner and am not a HAM operator. I am guessing that the old saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" would be a good practice until I get my license.

When has using a scanner been illegal... We use them in our station units and I have two in my truck... almost everyone I know that has an envolvment with weather, has one in their vehicle.
I may be wrong but I don't think you have to be licensed to have a scanner. Just to transmit over a Ham radio. I was given a Ham radio a few weeks ago so I will be getting licensed for it in March (I hope).

In Oklahoma it isn't illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. Some other states it is unless you are a HAM operator or part of an organization like the fire dept. or civil defense. It is wise to check the laws for the states you chase in.
Nope, never been busted for it, but as stated above, it's not Illegal in OK. We have scanners in all the station vehicles as well as two way business band radios.

Less and less information is going out over scanner though. Now that we have mobile comuting in some areas and cell phones in almost all areas, getting the "juicy" information is becoming a thing of the past. It was once upon a time where you could get some pretty good details by listening in on the scanner traffic. Now it's mostly the intial call out or emergency traffic that takes to long to call in over cell.

On the up side, weather information is in that calss of info that gets broadcast over the radio rather than called in. Most likley it will remain that way.
Just FYI, the ARRL doesn't issue any licenses. An Amateur Radio License is issued by the FCC.

That said, only a very few states outlaw scanners to the general public. Those that do, have exceptions for things like news vehicles ON ASSIGNMENT, public servants, and ham radio operators.

Michigan, Minnesota, New York. Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida. Missouri has been trying to pass a cell phone law that had wording that would outlaw scanners as well, but it has not passed yer apparently.

Most other states outlaw them only when used in the furtherance of a crime.

A couple of states seem to have laws on the books that outlaw even ham radio operators having them (which also precludes the use of most commercial ham radios, since they are capable of scanning outside the ham bands). In that regard, the FCC issued a ruling that since federal law took precedence over state and local laws, and the FCC has ruled that they are allowed, this pretty much exempts all licensed ham radio operators from any anti-scanner laws in the US.

Federal law prohibits using any communications you intercept for personal or financial gain across the board.

If your worried about having your scanner while chasing, just another reason to get your ham license.
I agree with David, get your license :wink:

On to the question...Check the laws for your state. I was in Michigan for almost two years and they do in fact have a scanner law. You cannot have a scanner OR any other receiving device (most 2m radios receive public safety bands) in your vehicle unless you are licensed with the FCC as an amateur or have a special permit from the state police.

We actually had one of our hams in our club get his radio taken from his vehicle on site until they verified he was an amateur radio operator. He went ahead and got a permit from the state police to carry in his vehicle along with a copy of the state laws regarding use of scanners just in case it happened again.

That was always the reason I gave my wife for not letting her drive my Liberty, told her she had to get her license so they wouldn't confiscate my radios if she got pulled over :wink: I was half serious!

If you're a ham and live in one of those states, you might want to print this out, and keep in in your glove compartment. It's the FCC ruling.


to quote their conclusion:

13. 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.
Check out the following site, which explains which states have some sort of law against scanners in pedestrian vehicles:


From the site, it seems the MN, MI, NY, FL, IN, and KY all have some sort of law which makes scanners illegal in vehicles unless some provision is met (in most cases, a ham radio license).

For what it's worth, you can check out the section on radar detector laws by state as well...
Michigan, Minnesota, New York. Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida. Missouri has been trying to pass a cell phone law that had wording that would outlaw scanners as well, but it has not passed yer apparently.

Funny you should mention that... Almost every cop I see is yapping on the cell phone, and not wearing their seatbelt to go along with it, at least around here in southeast MI. :lol:

Anyway, here in MI, I carry my scanner in the vehicle (without having a HAM license)... It was in there when border patrol stopped me, and they didn't say anything. I'm not suggesting break the law, but I don't think that stopping people with scanners is high priority, especially in an area like mine... Parents bringing heroin to their children in school is :lol:
Scanners I think are a lot like seatbelts, while the odds of you being pulled over specifially for either is rather slim, I would imagine its someting they'd tack on if you were pulled over for speeding or something.

I had a scanner in my vehicle not long before getting my HAM license, but never had any issues where it was mentioned. Obviously now, I am a licensed HAM, so that should rid of any problems I may've had. In any case, I haven't heard of any incodents where someone was cited for having a scanner and no license.
There have been some reported incidents where even ham radio operators have had their radios yanked out and destroyed on the spot by ignorant cops. I would suspect that they had a surprise coming later when the lawyers got through with things. I am thankful I live and chase in states where the don't care.
I was pulled over for speeding in the summer of 2001 in southern Minnesota. I was told by the cop that scanners are illegal in any pedestrial vehicle. I explained to him that ham radio operators are exempt from this law, and, since I was/am a licensed ham, it was legal for me to have a scanner in my car. He refuted this, saying that it was illegal and suggestioning that I remove it from my car. Now, he didn't say anything after he came back to actually give me my ticket, so I don't know if he asked dispatch about the law or not. In either case, you definately need to know the law in your state, and don't be surprised if not all cops do.
This is definately one of the dumbest laws that I have heard of, no doubt about that. What's the difference if your listening to a scanner, or listening to the radio?! I guess I will just have to hide if from now on...

Laws are meant to protect people, and what does listening to a scanner have to do with infringing on someone else's rights, or safety issues? Again, listening to the radio is no different, in my opinion...