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Monitoring and the Law

Jorge Rodriguez


Eight Websites For Finding Your Monitoring Law



            In 1955, before his death, a newspaper reporter was interviewing Albert Einstein. At the end of the interview, the reporter asked if he could have Einstein's telephone number so he could call if he had any further questions. “Certainly” replied Einstein. He walked over to a small table, picked up the telephone book and looked up his phone number, then he wrote it on a slip of paper and handed it to the reporter.

            Trying not to look dumbfounded, the reporter asked, "You’re considered one of the smartest men in the world and you can't remember your own phone number?” Einstein looked at him with amusement and replied, “Why should I memorize something when I know where to find it?”

            These eight websites are sure to help anyone avoid memorizing and know where to find your own information about monitoring and the law both in your particular area or interest or where you live.


Monitoring Times - Monitoring and the Law column


            This very column, which you are reading right now, and the ones before it since the spring of 2003 when Monitoring Times began a full time column dedicated to scanner monitoring laws are archived here. In addition to monthly columns on certain state’s and nation's laws, you’ll find specialized articles on related topics such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and proposed state and federal legislation in the works, such as the 2002 Cyber Security Enhancement Act (CSEA). Soon every state and major city that has a scanner law on the books will be profiled and archived here along with the individual stories that help illustrate how hobbyists and radio listeners can avoid the pitfalls that have ensnarled others.



Monitoring Times Listener’s Lawbook by Frank Terranella, Esq.


            The 1995 edition of the now out-of-print Listener’s Lawbook by New Jersey attorney Frank Terranella can be found here. Although readers are cautioned that this book has not been revised in almost ten years, this remains one of the best compilations of scanner laws ever published and the only one we know of which has been published in a traditional print format. The text of this book is reproduced here on the Grove Enterprises website with the permission of the author. If you’re interested in a print copy, used copies of the June 1995 edition Listener’s Lawbook occasionally turn up on and eBay for about ten dollars.



Mobile Scanner and Radar-Detector Laws in the United States


            Todd Sherman’s excellent online guide to Mobile Scanner and Radar-Detector Laws in the United States on the Alachua County Freenet ( in Gainesville, Florida, is one of the best, most current online websites to gather together the many laws on monitoring in the United States in one single place. Mr. Sherman has put a lot of work into this site and it shows. In fact, you’ll find this Website referenced in many other places on the web when looking for radio scanner laws and deservedly so – this is a good starting place.



Laws Governing Radio Monitoring in the United States


            David Stark’s NF2G Scannist Pages cover Federal laws such as the Communications Act of 1934, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, the Telecommunications Disclosure & Dispute Resolution Act, and the Digital Telephony Bill, which makes cordless scanning illegal, among others. Here, too, you’ll find comments on whether there is a Constitutional right to privacy with links to several essays on the topic. A piece entitled “The 1997 Cellular Witch Hunt” discusses the Cellular Telephone & Internet Association’s efforts ten years after ECPA. There are also sections on FAA Regulations concerning scanners aboard aircraft and a note about amateur radio antenna regulations.



            This link from Richard Well’s website is a good starting point for anyone planning on traveling abroad with a scanner. Although the laws vary from country to county, a chart listing countries in alphabetical order along with whether they have any laws regulating the use of scanners can be found at this link.

            Hobbyists traveling abroad may also want to consult the U.S. State Department as well as the proper regulatory agency in the country they are traveling to in order to insure that both their equipment and activities are permitted. And don’t forget to carry with you prior proof of purchase and ownership for your radios. You don’t want to be mistakenly charged a customs duty on something you bought elsewhere, only because you don’t have the proof with you.



Scanning Reference


            Although apparently not updated in several years, many of the federal laws featured on Clay Irving’s Web page – scanning reference, laws, rules and regulations – have changed little since the last update in 1996. Here you’ll find those and links to several state laws on listening to police radio.



            There are now many places on the web for doing your own legal research. The online legal research field for decades was the exclusive domain of Mead Lexis-Nexis and law book publisher West’s Westlaw, but today they have competition. However, out of all of them, this is still my favorite starting point for free legal research on the web. Although many will find the green bar “For the Public” area, a good starting point, the real meat of the research you can do here is under the blue “For Professionals” banner. There you’ll find links to federal and state case law and statutory law.

            The problem then becomes which search terms to use. There is no standard word or phrase for what hobbyists call scanners; for example, some states still outlaw scanners under the heading of "short wave radios." If you have your state or municipality's statute or code number, searching for that in quotation marks will often yield not only related laws but also cases.





            No list of places to find information on the web would be complete without mentioning the reigning king of search engines – Google. So pervasive and established that the site name itself has become a verb as much as a noun in our modern day lexicon of online speech. Internet users now not only go to Google, but they google – which means they search the web.


            If you’ve explored the websites above and still haven’t found the answer you’re looking for, remember you can send your monitoring and law stories and questions by mail or e-mail right here to Monitoring and the Law.


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 jurisdiction.