Railfan Arrested

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DODGEIT

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Below is a message I recently received of a railfan that had a radio programmed with railroad frequencies and was caught talking to train crews. This should be a reminder that having a radio that can transmit on railroad frequencies is asking for trouble. Read the text below.

> > > This person is an aquaintance of mine. He had been warned by railroad
> > personel
> > > to stop. His antics made it all the way to the railroad president's
> > desk.But for
> > > those of you that have radios that can transmit, and you can talk to
> the
> > crews
> > > remember this.
> > > Unless you are authorized by the FCC to operate a radio that transmits,
> > you are
> > > violating the law. If you are not a railroad employee, communicating
> with
> > a crew
> > > is against the law.
> > > This person honestly thought that he was helping out crews by talking
> > > to them. A road foreman heard the call which prompted an investigation
> > and
> > > eventually a sting operation. Even though he was NOT on railroad
> > property, he
> > > was arrested. His car and his radio was confiscated. He was able to get
> > the car
> > > out of the impound area. Now he faces Federal charges and will have to
> > appear in
> > > court.I don't know what the outcome of the trial will be, but I imagine
> > that it
> > > will include a fine by the FCC, if not more. He will not get his radio
> > back.
> > > Now before we get the multitude of replys calling him an idiot etc.
> > (which is
> > > true)This is a notice for those of you that have these type of radios.
> > Some have
> > > taken pride of demonstrating how they can talk to the crews etc. Take
> > notice of
> > > this warning. The railroads and the government aren't playing games,
> and
> > you are
> > > operating at your own risk. I know second hand of the consequences.
> > >
> >
> >
> >
>
 

rdale

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Any specifics on the case / location / name / etc.? Based on the number of > > > > 's in front, it seems that was forwarded an awful lot...
 

AK9R

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Rob, I saw this message on one of the railfan lists I monitor. I think the incident was somewhere in the Plains. Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, something like that. Sorry I don't have more info.
 

rdale

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Thanks - I'm not saying it couldn't have happened, but it's lacking enough specifics that makes me question.

Can you get ARRESTED for transmitting on an unlicensed frequency? If so - by who? FCC certainly can't do that, and it's not a violation of any local laws. I've heard of people going to court over illegal transmissions, but having your car impounded and going to jail before getting to talk to the judge sounds a little fishy.
 

BigLebowski

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For the transmitting.. maybe.

Most states have several laws pertaining to railroads, such as "Interfering with railway operations", which could be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on where you are. I don't think that a car being towed and held as evidence would be unreasonable if the method of interfering with railway operations was by transmitting on a radio mounted in the said vehicle.
 

kb2vxa

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"Can you get ARRESTED for transmitting on an unlicensed frequency?"
Most certainly!

"If so - by who?"
The US Marshall Service.

"FCC certainly can't do that, and it's not a violation of any local laws."
No commission has law enforcement powers which is why they come with the T Men (Treasury Department) which has. They have no power to collect fines either, that's left to the US District Court and an Administrative Law judge.

This case however leaves us clueless and open to speculation since so far it's nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor. That's not to say it's false, most likely true but without substance or merit. For that reason I suggest we hold the gossip until we have facts to go on.
 

AK9R

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Rob, I went back and looked at the original message. Looks like it came from the OKEFENOKEERAILFANS group on Yahoo. That group focuses on the southeastern Georgia area around Folkston. Sorry for the misdirect.
 

rdale

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vxa - thanks for the inside info.

rxr - Thanks for the clarification... The lack of names / details / etc. still has me swaying towards this showing up on Snopes someday ;)
 

SCPD

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Let's take a look at this and see if it meets criteria for an urban legend or myth. First, no RR company is ever named. Charges weren't specified, and look how many right parenitisis there are. I count two on some lines and three on others. Obviously this has been forwarded around a bit. And the fact that it starts out with "an aquaintance of mine" makes it seem even more suspicious. It lacks to much information to be considered real. While it is true that that operating on unathorized frequencies is contrary to law, I'd have thought there'd be more publicity on this case. Is there? Are there defining links that show that this event actually happened? Or is it just another urban legend?
 

milf

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Yes you can be get in hot water for unathorized transmission on an radio service. As for publicity, you rarely see this making national headlines unless it causes a derailment or other "sensational" headline event. It would be in local police blotter type articles. It happens most often in inerference in PS bands, and this is the first time I have heard of it in railroad radio. But yes, if you iether interfereing or transmitting on an unathorized band, the agency can and usually wil have the athorities, whether its FCC or an LEA investigate, and prosecute you. Usually the FCC will just FINE you an big chunk of cash. But with the railroads being watched by TSA and DHS, you could possibly get in a lot worse trouble. As we say many many times- If you have an actual radio that has TX capabilities, DO NOT TX unless your athorized. If you want to use commercial gear to RX fine, have it TX disabled or just don't touch that PTT.
 

jaymatt1978

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I just scanned a few of the replies, and even if it never happened, it's a good warning to railfans who might be tempted to do something like it.
 

cifd64

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I dont see what is so hard to understand here. If you dont belong on the air, stay off of it. I have a license to tx on PS Bands, but i dont unless it is to my own department for emergency purposes or for radio repair work. Do i need the license? No. But i got one anyway to CMA.
 
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What if there was an emergency situation? I am a HAM operator and when there is an emergency you use what ever communication is necessary to get help. I'm not saying this guy was transmiting an emergency message to the crew, but if there were somebody on the tracks or what ever the case may be and that train needed to be stopped immediately. Would he be punished for transmitting an emergency message? This guy was probably just BS'ing on the radio and had absolutely no business at all even having a radio with tx capabilites.
 

milf

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In an emergency things are a tad different. But this "urban legend"/common sense warning still stands as the rule of thumb. Most folks in an emergncy unless they are radio savvy are going to grab that cell phone and dial 911. Remember that the majority of folks out in the world not only are not PS , or HAM, they have not the foggiest idea about radios other than turn on stereo, find chan, listen. :) I am just glad that I got in the scanning hobby around ten and then have been learning and been radio crazy ever since. Even got into broadcasting for a while.. When I tried once to explain how my voice had to go through the process to get from the mic to a freind's stereo.. he was left looking at me doing the fish... That was an eye opener lol
 
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JoeyC

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In a true emergency, FCC Section 97.403 authorizes a person to use any means at their disposal to protect human life or property. But don't be caught crying wolf.
you forgot an important part: when normal communication systems are not available.

This does not allow you to make an emergency call on the railroad freqs, police freqs, fire freqs, when you are able to transmit on amateur freqs or if you are carrying a working cellphone.
 

KC9LQV

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you forgot an important part: when normal communication systems are not available.

This does not allow you to make an emergency call on the railroad freqs, police freqs, fire freqs, when you are able to transmit on amateur freqs or if you are carrying a working cellphone.
No one is going to split that hair if you save someone's life by grabbing a TX modded ham rig. Remember, we're talking about an *immediate* threat to life or major property.

Besides, how is a 2-meter repeater or cell phone going to allow you to contact a train crew only a couple of miles from a washout, a bus full of nuns and orphans stuck on the tracks, etc? You'd still be going through voicemail on most railroad systems ...

"If one of our trains just drove off into the river, press 7."

Personally, I would be willing to take that risk.
 

JoeyC

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No one is going to split that hair if you save someone's life by grabbing a TX modded ham rig. Remember, we're talking about an *immediate* threat to life or major property.

Besides, how is a 2-meter repeater or cell phone going to allow you to contact a train crew only a couple of miles from a washout, a bus full of nuns and orphans stuck on the tracks, etc? You'd still be going through voicemail on most railroad systems ...

"If one of our trains just drove off into the river, press 7."

Personally, I would be willing to take that risk.
I didn't write the law...
 
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