View Full Version : Scanners?

2007-05-16, 08:28 PM
So what exactly is the law governing hand held scanners in your car or on your person while "spotting"? I've been spotting for years and years (my specialty is helicopters) and I was a regular at the old 60st Heliport
in Manhattan since I work not far from there. I dont spot as much as I used to but when I do I head over to FRG. They have a lot of helicopters hangared there and you never know who will be visiting on any given day.
BTW I keep my scanner (Bearcat 72XLT) discreet (long shirts NOT tucked in are a must, lol) and use my ipod headphones whenever possible. I was only stopped once there since 9/11 as I had been taking some copter shots and the SC officer was very nice and no problem. In the city at the heliports I was NEVER stopped in all the years I spotted and took pictures.
Even after 9/11 I was at the West 30St Heliport and East 34st Heliport and had no problems.
Thanks all and great site. I discovered this place by accident a few
weeks ago and it has been very informative and interesting.

2007-05-16, 09:42 PM
There are no laws forbidding the scanning of public frequencies. You do not need an operating license.

2007-05-16, 09:45 PM
Hi Gerard.

Never had a problem at the heliports either (not counting the actual pier itself at Wall Street).

Bet you saw some good old Sikorskys (and other stuff) back in the day.....


2007-05-16, 11:23 PM
Bet you saw some good old Sikorskys (and other stuff) back in the day.....

Oh you can say that, LOL!! I've been helo spotting since the late 70s
and I've seen a lot of different copters (and stuff) over the years at many places. One of my best was actually last summer at TOBAY Beach on Long Island. Sitting with my wife and friends near the shoreline and I heard the unmistakable sound of copters approaching from the east. As they got closer I saw that it was a flight of three Army Chinooks flying low and fast along the shoreline. It was a breathtaking and VERY cool sight and no exaggeration EVERYONE on the beach and in the water stopped to watch these ships fly past. One of them had its rear ramp door open and a crew member was sitting by the door waving to the people on the beach!! Wish I had a camera then!!!
Thanks for the reply!!

hiss srq
2007-05-16, 11:49 PM
Helecopters is the name of the game in my family, except for me, I am more fixed wing than my dad is but the name HISS is (helicopter international shipping service).

2007-05-17, 02:02 AM
So what exactly is the law governing hand held scanners in your car or on your person while "spotting"?

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law prohibits "equipping" a motor vehicle with a radio that is "capable" of receiving police frequencies unless one is a Peace Officer, has a permit, or is licensed by the FCC as an amateur (ham) radio operator. Full text of the law is here:


Included on that page are several citations of case law, this one is of particular interest:

People v. Verdino, 1974 78 Misc.2d 719, 357 N.Y.S.2d 769.

This critical case established that the statue applies to any radio that is capable of receiving police signals whether or not the radio was actually being operated. In this case Verdino was caught with a scanner that operated from the cigarette lighter but was not plugged in at the time he was stopped. The court ruled that the radio was still "capable" of receiving signals thus making it illegal.

As I mentioned in another thread, I've had a scanner for some 10 years, which I mostly use when attending auto races. When I do use it for spotting (or even when heading out for a race weekend), I usually keep it in the trunk when I'm on the road. Not that I expect any problems, but it's just one more thing to worry about.

Note that this is a traffic law, and applies only to use of scanners in a motor vehicle. There is nothing illegal about using a scanner when sitting out watching aircraft, but as with most aspects of our hobby, be ready for some funny looks.

2007-05-17, 03:35 AM
Anyone know what the law is in Florida?

2007-05-17, 09:35 AM
or you could just hand it to me as I am HAM licenced.

2007-05-17, 07:05 PM
Thanks all for the replies. A co-worker/friend of mine (who introduced me to scanners some 18 years ago and enjoys spotting himself ) and I have had a number of discussions about how much harder it has gotten to spot/watch since 9/11. Well after discovering this forum and reading about the numerous incidents around the Tri-state area I realize it was worse than we thought.
Of course that aint stopping us from enjoying our hobbies.

2007-05-18, 12:54 PM
only in VA are scanners illegal. don't get the folk down there.

2007-05-20, 10:39 PM
Radar detectors are illegal in Virginia. Scanners are perfectly fine.

2007-07-10, 10:21 AM
Your not supposed to have a scanner in your car. This is because the police dont want you showing up at crime scene and accidents and such.

As long as your scanner is in the trunk or back seat turned off, I think its OK.

As for walking around with one, I wouldnt think its illegal.

2007-07-11, 12:37 PM

Here is Florida's law taken from Todd Sherman's site. http://www.afn.org/~afn09444/scanlaws/scanner5.html

Florida - (2005 law) - Use Illegal installed or transported in vehicles unless you are either a licensed alarm system contractor, member of Press ON ASSIGNMENT (*note* that), licensed amateur radio operator, or citizen with written permission from Chief of Police or Sheriff or Chief of Fire Department of your community. As well, here is the Fla. Atty. General's Opinion on the definition of an "installed" radio. Going by the AG's Opinion, it would seem that a handheld scanner, not connected an external antenna, and not connected to the vehicle's own power supply (i.e., using it's own battery) would be legal while mobile. Therfore, I would advise Florida traveller's to keep the Atty. General's Opinion in the glove compartment along with as the Florida scanner law. [I think Florida is the only state that does it right and treats its citizens fairly and like they're intelligent - defining everything and leaving no room for misinterpretation or wasted or unnecessary lawyering. Too many states with scanner laws just say vague things and leave it up to the citizen to have to sort out later, and to deal with the expense of having to do that. -Todd]

2007-07-14, 04:15 AM
Thanks for posting that Mark,
I will look into it as see what my options are. It would kind of suck to have my scanners taken away from me. I have plenty of extras around anyway so.
I'll try to decipher all that leagal stuff it will take a bit though :) Without my scanners monitoring I feel blind and not 100 percent in control.


PHL Approach
2007-07-14, 03:18 PM
Your not supposed to have a scanner in your car. This is because the police don't want you showing up at crime scene and accidents and such.

As long as your scanner is in the trunk or back seat turned off, I think its OK.

As for walking around with one, I wouldn't think its illegal.

It gets even more complex than that. As someone mentioned, it is illegal in like 45 states if not all now to have a scanner hooked up to your cars' power. Which can, in some cases go hand in hand with having it in the car at all.
Of course its also illegal to commit a crime while in the possession of a scanner - Thats a hefty fine, I actually think you'll do some good time for that one depending on the nature of the crime.

2007-07-20, 11:36 AM
Very interesting discussion...it looks like at least in the Florida law excerpt that licensed Ham Radio operators are exempted from this restriction, did I read that correctly? If so, that would mean that I simply have to have a copy of my FCC license in the car with me and I should be clear should I encounter an issue with my Ham Radio (sometimes doubling as a scanner) installed in my car. Am I interpreting this correctly?

2007-08-12, 06:57 PM
If you are not allowed a scanner in the car at all, how are you supposed to bring your new scanner that you bought from radio shack home??? :mrgreen:

(Just leave the scanner in the back seat/trunk, you will be all right.)

2007-09-16, 11:31 PM
Regardless of the law, the law doesn't "own" the frequency spectrum. Laws like these just seem so...archaic, ignorant, and 20th century.