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Wisconsin Radio Discussion Forum Forum for discussing Radio Information in the State of Wisconsin.

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Old 04-19-2009, 5:32 PM
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Default Wisconsin Moblie Scanner Laws

Hi, I am amature station KC9MLE, I have been hearing conflicting reports that scanners are illigal in wisconsin, the only law that I am aware of is that you can't have one in possession of a crime. Can anyone help me out on this.

Matt
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Old 04-19-2009, 7:26 PM
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I am not aware of any prohibition on scanners in Wisconsin, but it is difficult to prove a negative.

I would suggest that you ask whoever is claiming that they are illegal to provide you with the citation to the specific statute. I think you will find that they are unable to do so.

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Old 04-20-2009, 6:49 AM
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The link below seems to be fairly up to date and has several research resources -

Police Scanner Laws Regulating Usage - Police-Scanner.info
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Old 04-20-2009, 3:44 PM
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Thanks for the help, i have not been charged, i just had a small argument with a friend who is a grant co deputy and he thought they were illiegal i'll do further resarch thanks
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Old 04-20-2009, 3:46 PM
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i'm not introuble or anything, i just had a dissussion with a friend and he thought that posession of a scanner in a vehical is wrong, i didn't think they were, just if your in possession of them in a crime correct
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Old 04-20-2009, 5:17 PM
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Originally Posted by sgtmatt View Post
i'm not introuble or anything, i just had a dissussion with a friend and he thought that posession of a scanner in a vehical is wrong, i didn't think they were, just if your in possession of them in a crime correct
I did a quick search and, frankly, I couldn't even find a provision that makes it illegal to have one in your possession while you are committing a crime. But then criminal law is definitely not my specialty and it was a quick search. There are specific exclusions in sec. 968.31(2), Stats., so it doesn't appear that there would be any violation of 968.31.

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Old 04-21-2009, 10:50 AM
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Years ago, during the summer, I was waiting for my wife to get her food shopping done at the Oak Creek Sentry Food Store. I had my Uniden scanner in the car and was hearing police and fire calls while I waited in the parking lot. It was a warm day, and my windows were down. The scanner was a little loud with the amp. speaker.

This one guy thought I was wrong to listen, and called the Oak Creek Police on me. The officer arrived, walked up to my car, looked in, and told this guy: "He is allowed to listen to his scanner." He said nothing to me, and they left.

In all the years I have been using a scanner, that was the first time I was confronted about it.

Joel
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Old 04-21-2009, 5:01 PM
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This page should answer all related individual state laws related to the use of scanners

U.S. Scanner Laws
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Old 04-21-2009, 7:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtmatt View Post
Thanks for the help, i have not been charged, i just had a small argument with a friend who is a grant co deputy and he thought they were illiegal i'll do further resarch thanks
Other than the federal prohibition about using it during the commission of a crime, there is no prohibition in this state about mobile communications equipment and it's subsequent installation in a motor vehicle. It's one of very few things that isn't regulated in motor vehicles. Having or not having an amateur radio license is irrelevant. It sounds as if your deputy friend got some bad info at some point, or has a pre-conceived notion that it "must be" illegal. In either case, he's wrong so please correct him.

That said, discretion should be used when they are in your vehicle. Stuff like view obstructions, inattentive driving, etc still apply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mp262 View Post
This page should answer all related individual state laws related to the use of scanners
That page hasn't been updated in 4 years, so I wouldn't rely on that for current information.

Last edited by stateboy; 04-21-2009 at 8:01 PM..
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mp262 View Post
This page should answer all related individual state laws related to the use of scanners

U.S. Scanner Laws
It should, but it doesn't.

As stateboy pointed out, the page is quite old. Furthermore, relying on an unknown Certified Paralegal in Florida to provide legal advice about the law in Wisconsin is not a good idea. You'll notice that the web page says:

"If scanners are known to be either illegal or restricted in any states they will be listed below, with links to the text of the law, if known. If a state is NOT listed below, there is NO known scanner law."

"NO" and "NOT" are in capital letters, but "KNOWN" should have been in caps all three times it appears in that sentence. The information provided doesn't help you much if you live in a state with a law that isn't "known" to the author and we have no idea how much or little he may know about Wisconsin law. He's got his butt covered, but that won't help someone else's butt that takes that page as gospel.

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Old 04-21-2009, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stateboy View Post
Other than the federal prohibition about using it during the commission of a crime
I'm not having much luck finding that provision and would just as soon avoid a full fledged research project which might resemble work. ;-) Do you happen to know the source of that?

Thanks.

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Old 04-22-2009, 3:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvictor View Post
I'm not having much luck finding that provision and would just as soon avoid a full fledged research project which might resemble work. ;-) Do you happen to know the source of that?

Thanks.

73
Dick
The basic prohibition of using intercepted communications to aid in a crime is under USC 18, Chapter 119...the "Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986".

To paraphrase from the Police-scanner.info website:

Quote:
It has been a long held belief that owning and using a police scanner is illegal. The truth is that owning and using a scanner for use in your own home is legal, however, there are some things that are illegal to do with a scanner. In addition to Federal laws, local restrictions may apply and vary from state to state. For example, a few states require a permit or FCC amateur license for mobile scanner usage. Law regulating the use of radio scanners are enforced by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and spelled out in the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986).

The bottom line:

It is illegal to listen in on cellular and cordless phone calls.

It is illegal to intercept encrypted or scrambled communications.

It is illegal for scanner manufacturers to sell or import radio scanners that are capable of receiving cellular phone frequencies. (Note: This rule does not apply to sales by individuals and radio scanners made before 1985).

It is illegal to modify radio scanners so that cellular phone frequencies can be received.

It is illegal to use information you hear for personal gain. A common example is where a taxi driver listens to a competitor's dispatch channel for fare pick-ups and then races over and picks-up the fares.

It is illegal to use information you hear to aid in the commission of a crime.

It is illegal to disclose information you hear to other persons.

Last edited by stateboy; 04-22-2009 at 3:51 PM..
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Old 04-22-2009, 8:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stateboy View Post
The basic prohibition of using intercepted communications to aid in a crime is under USC 18, Chapter 119...the "Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986".

To paraphrase from the Police-scanner.info website:
Thanks. Those are the provisions that I had been looking at. They are 18 U.S.C. secs. 2510-2522 which comprise chapter 119 of the U.S. Code. I've reread the current version of that material and am unable to find any specific prohibition on using intercepted communications to aid in a crime. Instead, I find a specific exemption in sec. 2511(2)(g) which provides:

"(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person—
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;
(ii) to intercept any radio communication which is transmitted—
(I) by any station for the use of the general public, or that relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress;
(II) by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public;
(III) by a station operating on an authorized frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur, citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
(IV) by any marine or aeronautical communications system;"

It's possible that I missed something, but I don't find that prohibition, particularly in light of the express exemption quoted above. If someone has a specific provision to the contrary, I'd be happy to have it pointed out.

I should point out that various states may have provisions regarding the use of a scanner in the commission of a crime, but so far at least I don't see it in either federal or Wisconsin law. I thought it might fall within the Wisconsin 'obstructing" law, but doesn't seem to fit there either.

73
Dick
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Last edited by rvictor; 04-22-2009 at 8:22 PM..
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:21 AM
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The only way it would be obstructing an officer would be if a person was interfearing with an investagation or causing interfearance in an officer's course of duty, but i wouldn't see an issue if a person who is using it for ham radio duties like skywarn where you're using it to listen to surrounding counties to see whats comming at you than i don't see the issue
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtmatt View Post
The only way it would be obstructing an officer would be if a person was interfearing with an investagation or causing interfearance in an officer's course of duty, but i wouldn't see an issue if a person who is using it for ham radio duties like skywarn where you're using it to listen to surrounding counties to see whats comming at you than i don't see the issue
No offense, but you're putting too much thought into this.

There is no prohibition to having, using, carrying, possessing or otherwise being near a scanner in this state. Same applies to any type of radio you rightfully own, except a bootlegged trunked radio that is illegally programmed (a whole different issue).

If you can't transmit on frequencies you are not authorized for, it doesn't matter if you listen to police/fire/ems etc on a scanner, amateur transceiver or LMR radio.

If you don't use the info you hear for nefarious purposes, and you aren't listening to something you shouldn't be (i.e. cell phones) then there is no issue.

Scan and be free, just be a responsible person while doing it.
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvictor View Post
Thanks. Those are the provisions that I had been looking at. They are 18 U.S.C. secs. 2510-2522 which comprise chapter 119 of the U.S. Code. I've reread the current version of that material and am unable to find any specific prohibition on using intercepted communications to aid in a crime. Instead, I find a specific exemption in sec. 2511(2)(g) which provides:
It appears you are correct. I know that I have read text somewhere that laid out the specific prohibition that we are discussing, but I can't find it anywhere either...and I don't remember what fed document I was reading. I thought for sure it was covered in ECPA.

The last time I looked was back in the mid-90's, so I have no idea where/what I was looking at back then.

It is a puzzlement
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Old 04-23-2009, 5:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgtmatt View Post
The only way it would be obstructing an officer would be if a person was interfearing with an investagation or causing interfearance in an officer's course of duty, but i wouldn't see an issue if a person who is using it for ham radio duties like skywarn where you're using it to listen to surrounding counties to see whats comming at you than i don't see the issue
As I said, obstructing doesn't seem to fit. This was part of a more general discussion as to whether there is any law in Wisconsin or in the Federal law which prohibits the use of a scanner while you are committing a crime, so I was referring to that context. My observation was that even the use of a scanner while one is committing a crime doesn't appear to violate the obstructing statute so that apparently isn't the basis for the belief in question. So far, it appears that there isn't such a law despite a general belief that such a law exists.

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Old 04-23-2009, 5:14 PM
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It appears you are correct. I know that I have read text somewhere that laid out the specific prohibition that we are discussing, but I can't find it anywhere either...and I don't remember what fed document I was reading. I thought for sure it was covered in ECPA.

The last time I looked was back in the mid-90's, so I have no idea where/what I was looking at back then.

It is a puzzlement
Thanks for the attempt to find it for me. I think we've gone as far as practical at this point. If I subsequently find it, I'll revive this thread. :-)

Perhaps I've got too much time on my hands.

73
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Old 04-23-2009, 6:58 PM
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Perhaps I've got too much time on my hands.

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Dick
Of course you do, you're retired
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Old 04-23-2009, 9:51 PM
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Of course you do, you're retired
And loving it.
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