Monitoring and the
New Florida Law Could Ensnarl Legal Operators
Amateur radio operators as well as outlaw
pirate radio broadcasters could face a third degree felony and a $5,000 fine in
Florida under a new law which takes effect this month. Senate Bill 2714 relating
to an unauthorized transmission to, or interference with, a public or commercial
radio station, creates Florida Statute 877.27, which prohibits a person from
making a radio transmission in Florida unless the person first obtains a license
or an exemption from licensure from the Federal Communications Commission. The
new law also prohibits an unlicensed radio or pirate radio transmission that
interferes with a licensed public or commercial radio station.
Specifically, a person may not make, or cause
to be made, a radio transmission in Florida unless the person obtains a license
or an exemption from licensure from the Federal Communications Commission under
47 U.S.C. s. 301, or other applicable federal law or regulations. A person also
may not perform an act, whether directly or indirectly, to cause an unlicensed
radio transmission to interfere with a public or commercial radio station
licensed by the Federal Communications Commission or to even enable the radio
transmission or interference to occur.
In the wake of the new law, amateur radio
operators in the state are concerned SB 2714 could be misconstrued to apply to
anyone transmitting a signal, even an accidental interference, that affects
public or commercially licensed broadcasters. This could include not only
amateur radio operators, but anyone using the radio frequency spectrum.
The hope of some is that the FCC may intervene
and issue a declaratory ruling noting at that there is federal preemption in
this area and that control of the airwaves is their exclusive domain.
Scanners in Virginia and West Virginia
In our continuing coverage of states that have
specific statutes on the use and possession of scanners, this month we present
the Virginia and West Virginia Statutes relating to such use and possession.
West Virginia’s brief law prohibits the use of what you hear over a police radio
to further the commission of a crime. Virginia similarly prohibits the use of
what you hear over a police radio if used to help commit a felony.
West Virginia Statutes §15-3-5.
"Use of information obtained by
interceptions of transmissions on department of public safety communications
system forbidden; penalties.
"No person shall intercept any message or
transmission made on or over any communications system established by the
department of public safety and use the information obtained thereby to aid,
abet or assist in committing a crime, or in violating any law of this state, or
use the same in a manner which will interfere with the discharge of the
"Any person who violates any provision of this
section or of section two of this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and,
upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to confinement in the county jail
for a period not to exceed one year or by a fine of an amount not to exceed five
hundred dollars or by both such confinement and fine in the discretion of the
Code of Virginia § 18.2-462.1.
"Use of police radio during commission of
"Any person who has in his possession or who
uses a device capable of receiving a police radio signal, message, or
transmission, while in the commission of a felony, is guilty of a Class 1
misdemeanor. A prosecution for or conviction of the crime of use or possession
of a police radio is not a bar to conviction for any other crime committed while
possessing or using the police radio."
Radar Detectors in Virginia
While the days of the Virginia State Police
sniffing out your FuzzBuster (tm) radar detector and seizing it are gone, it is
still illegal to use radar detection devices in Virginia. Contrary to the state
statute, some local government web sites such as the City of Fairfax advise that
drivers may possess a detector even in a vehicle if the device has no power
source and no one in the vehicle can access it. The actual statue, however,
still prohibits possession in a motor vehicle, even if disconnected and not in
§ 46.2-1079. Radar detectors
"A. It shall be unlawful for any person to
operate a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth when such vehicle is
equipped with any device or mechanism, passive or active, to detect or
purposefully interfere with or diminish the measurement capabilities of any
radar, laser, or other device or mechanism employed by law-enforcement personnel
to measure the speed of motor vehicles on the highways of the Commonwealth for
law-enforcement purposes. It shall be unlawful to use any such device or
mechanism on any such motor vehicle on the highways. It shall be unlawful to
sell any such device or mechanism in the Commonwealth. However, provisions of
this section shall not apply to any receiver of radio waves utilized for lawful
purposes to receive any signal from a frequency lawfully licensed by any state
or federal agency.
"This section shall not be construed to
authorize the forfeiture to the Commonwealth of any such device or mechanism.
Any such device or mechanism may be taken by the arresting officer if needed as
evidence, and, when no longer needed, shall be returned to the person charged
with a violation of this section, or at that person's request, and his expense,
mailed to an address specified by him. Any unclaimed devices may be destroyed on
court order after six months have elapsed from the final date for filing an
"Except as provided in subsection B of this
section, the presence of any such prohibited device or mechanism in or on a
motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth shall constitute prima facie
evidence of the violation of this section. The Commonwealth need not prove that
the device or mechanism in question was in an operative condition or being
Police Radio Jammer Gets 8 Years
Twenty-six year old Rajib Mitra of Brookfield,
Wisconsin, has been sentenced to eight years under new guidelines that provide
for harsher penalties under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that took effect
in November 2003. In March, a jury convicted Mitra, in the case of the "magic
radio," of repeatedly interfering with the emergency communications radio system
of the Madison Police department last year.
Federal District Judge John Shabaz could have
added more time to the sentence for each of the times that Mitra interfered with
the Madison police radio system, but he decided not to do so. The case is
unique, since the United States charged Mitra's interference with the police
communication system as interference with a critical infrastructure under the
new post 9/11 guidelines and not under any of the traditional federal radio
During the sentencing last May, Judge Shabaz
noted the government's evidence showed Mitra also caused 36 other instances of
interference over a dozen times starting in January of 2003.
Monitoring and the Law will have full
coverage of how Mitra got himself into trouble with his scanners and radios in
next month's issue.
Disclaimer: Information in this column is
provided for its news and educational content only. Nothing here should be
construed as giving specific legal advice. Persons desiring legal advice about
their specific situation should consult an attorney licensed in their