Scanner FAQ

General questions about Police Scanners

Is it Legal to Listen to a Police Scanner?

If you live in a large city or even a small town, you have probably heard the sirens and seen the flashing lights of police cars or fire trucks as they passed you by. You have probably wondered where they were going, and if it is possible for you to track them. Using a police scanner, you can track where they are going and it is legal to use.

A scanner is basically a type of radio receiver that can scan a variety of different frequencies. Older models only receive one frequency at a time, while the newer models can support multiple frequencies. Scanners which can process multiple frequencies are much more efficient. They are used by many people, including spies, hobbyist, or even lawyers.

With advanced scanners, frequencies can be saved and reviewed at a later time. Many frequencies are now available on the internet or can be searched for using newer radios. When someone calls the police or dials 911, the call will be answered by a dispatcher who will notify the police. They will tell the police the location of the incident, and they will report there.

Someone listening in on a police scanner will be able to hear the entire conversation, even when the police are headed to the potential crime scene. They will often report back to the dispatcher, and the person using the scanner will be able to hear everything. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this.

While police scanners are legal, they do have a bit of a mixed reaction from the law enforcement community. Some believe that police scanners allow citizens to exercise their rights and protect their liberties. Police or other law enforcement who are involved in illegal activities could be liable if their actions were recorded using a scanner.

Scanners are cheaply available in stores to purchase, though the Congress recently passed a law stopping scanners from being purchased in the US which can tune in at 800 Mhz. The effect of this law is debated because most cell phone companies no longer use analog technology. Many police have chosen to protect their frequencies by encrypting them.

While it is legal to use police scanners in the US, the United Kingdom and France prohibit citizens from using any scanner which listens to anything other than normal radio broadcasts. In Canada, citizens are allowed to monitor frequencies, but it is against the law to disclose the information, though how this is enforced remains to be seen.

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It is illegal to listen to a scanner while commiting a crime in some US States.
It is illegal to have/listen to a scanner if you have been convicted of 1 or more
felonies during the preceding 5 years in some US States.
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