Are Police Scanners Legal

There are many reasons people like to use the best police scanners, whether it is for information (the fastest way to learn about what is happening in your city) or just for fun (vicariously enjoying the police experience). But the big question comes to mind: is it legal to own and operate police scanners?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

The short answer is “Yes” if you live in the United States of America. However if you live in Italy for example you should know that is strictly prohibited. In the USA it is legal to listen to a police scanner, as it should be, because the police are doing a public service and all their activities should be public as well (of course that is not always the case). The right to listen to public airways was ensured by the 1934 Communications Act.
Depending on the state you are lying in and its laws there are some restrictions. The restrictions are reasonable and justified. 

There are two type of restrictions: 

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

Use of a police scanner while driving is prohibited in the following states: 

Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Minnesota

The reason should be obvious. There is a justified concern that some people will misuse the police scanner to get information on police location and use that information to drive recklessly or in some other way endanger the traffic safety. Often police will establish a location on which they measure random drivers’ speed and write them fines if there is a reason. But these “speed traps” are useless if the driver knows their location. To prevent this from happening some states have made this use of the police scanner against the law. 

Use of a police scanner in the furtherance of a crime is prohibited in the following states:

California, New Jersey, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

All the information on the police airwaves can be misused to commit some form of a crime. As Thomas Jefferon once said “Knowledge is Power” and power can be used for good or bad causes. If you are caught for a crime that you committed and if it is proven that you used a police scanner to do it it will have an additional charge. 

Image by Linus Schütz from Pixabay 

So if you are responsible and don’t use the information that you geather listening to a police scanner in an unlawful manner it is LEGAL to use this scanner.