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Warning: Police Scanner Apps Can You Lead You To Serve Hard Time


Have you ever tried the dozen or so police radio scanner apps available on the Android Market? I know I have. Listening to all the police chatter was kind of fun (if not juvenile) and I even found out the neighbors were dealing weed.

Well, thanks to Droid-Life, I’ve learned that you might want to be careful before installing these apps on your phone. Apparently they are very illegal in some states and like a few people have already found out, could lead to criminal charges (uh-oh).

Take this genius, Matthew Hale of Muncie, Indiana, who was arrested last week in after an alleged failed robbery attempt. His charges? Well, armed robbery of course… and for using a police scanner app on his Motorola Droid. Police are saying that Matthew got word of police closing in on his location after using the app to monitor police radio traffic. He then tried to make a quick getaway, leaving his accomplice at the scene of the crime. Nice. Apparently, Mr. Hale didn’t know that using a police radio scanner is actually a misdemeanor offense in Indiana and probably wasn’t too happy to find this was added to his record.

Of course, all of this is news to me. I had no idea there were such strict state laws in regards to the plethora of radio scanning apps floating around the Android Market. While the laws regarding police scanners are different in every state, I’ve found out that like most things, it’s okay to use them in your home. Where you can get into trouble is when you take it out of your home and/or attempt to use it to aid with a crime.

So kids, the next time you get the bright idea to rob a liquor store, might want to uninstall that police scanner app first.


Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. it is illegal to equip a scanner in your vehicle here in michigan, however i don’t think it’s illegal to have one at home.  not sure, but it is worth checking out.   

    btw, first!

    1. If you have an amature radio license you can legaly have a scanner in your vehicle in michigan and most states for that matter. anyone can get them.

  2. Warning: Committing Crimes Can Lead You To Serve Hard Time

  3. So the police can listen in your conversations, but you can’t listen in on theirs?

    BTW @Chris are you sure that’s the way you found out your neighbor was selling? *cough cough*

    1. If you think that’s an injustice, you might want to check this out:

  4. I can’t use a device to help me commit a crime?  Gee.  Who would have thought.

    1. Or even if you weren’t using it to commit a crime. Like, you can’t use a police scanner app PERIOD in Indiana. Crime or not. 

      But then again, if you were using it, it would be a crime.

      1. my head hurts

  5. So uhh… Chris, tell me more about this neighbor of yours.

    1. LOL! He’s all sold out =P

      1. Sold OUT!!! what kind of dealer is he? Uhmmm pay no attention to the bright lights behind the curtain in my basement

      2. Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

  6. What a fool! The broadcast has a huge delay!

  7. Legal here in Cali.

      1. Many states it is perfectly legal as long as you aren’t using it in the committing of a crime – as you said. 

  8. Completely legal here in Ohio, you can pick them up at any Radio Shack, home or mobile versions.

    But it serves the moron right, if your going to commit a crime don’t use the internet to monitor the police responses.

    1. or at least don’t leave your accomplices or evidence behind… I’m guessing he would have failed with or without the app.

  9. Not being a grammar freak here, but the title needs tweaking. Not sure of the legal impacts of using these in the UK, especially if listening to U.S broadcasts….

  10. hell i can use it al i want because im in malaysia,not in the US….muahhahahaha

  11. Since when did proofreading become a lost art? Maybe you shouldn’t call someone a genius sarcastically when you obviously aren’t one yourself. It pains me to see people write like this as a profession.

  12. I own scanners and have the app. It is not illegal to own a scanner, but it is illegal to use a scanner for the following:

    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.

  13. The law in Indiana is that you cannot use a scanner “while mobile. Hams exempted.
    Includes use of a handheld scanner on a pedestrian, as well.”  DrJeckyl: It’s illegal to use in California “in furtherance of a crime,” but I’m sure that is true in most places.  Here is a link to tell you everything about national and states laws on the subject. 

  14. You’d think that if the police didn’t want the public listening-in on their radio chatter that they’d just used encrypted radios.  Bunch of tools…

  15. In most cases its legal to have a police scanner INCLUDING in Indiana.  Whats illegal is to use a police scanner to do illegal activity.  Here is the law in indiana.

    IC 35-44-3-12
    Unlawful use of a police radio; exemptions; “police radio” defined
    Sec. 12. (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally:
    (1) possesses a police radio;
    (2) transmits over a frequency assigned for police emergency purposes; or
    (3) possesses or uses a police radio:
    (A) while committing a crime;
    (B) to further the commission of a crime; or
    (C) to avoid detection by a law enforcement agency;
    commits unlawful use of a police radio, a Class B misdemeanor.
    (b) Subsection (a)(1) and (a)(2) do not apply to:
    (1) a governmental entity;
    (2) a regularly employed law enforcement officer;
    (3) a common carrier of persons for hire whose vehicles are used in emergency service;
    (4) a public service or utility company whose vehicles are used in emergency service;
    (5) a person who has written permission from the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency to possess a police radio;
    (6) a person who holds an amateur radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission if the person is not transmitting over a frequency assigned for police emergency purposes;
    (7) a person who uses a police radio only in the person’s dwelling or place of business;
    (8) a person:
    (A) who is regularly engaged in newsgathering activities;
    (B) who is employed by a newspaper qualified to receive legal advertisements under IC 5-3-1, a wire service, or a licensed commercial or public radio or television station; and
    (C) whose name is furnished by his employer to the chief executive officer of a law enforcement agency in the county 

    1. (a) A person who knowingly or intentionally:
      (1) possesses a police radio;
      (2) transmits over a frequency assigned for police emergency purposes; or
      (3) possesses or uses a police radio:

      He is none of those things, he is a person listening to a unrestricted transmission from somebody using using the frequencies.  Neither are doing anything wrong.

  16. Fight it. He’s not using a police scanner, he’s listening to a rebroadcast of a police scanner. If listening to a police scanner were illegal i’d just drive down the street in an ice cream truck broadcasting the police scans and having police arrest all the innocent kids that just wanted ice cream. Heheh

  17. Cops, ugh

  18. The article title is MISLEADING! Of COURSE using a scanner in the commision and aid of a crime is a criminal offense, I like most of what I read here, but that’s ridiculous.

    What will the next article read?  Carrying tools around can lead you to hard time too?

    Lol… Just adding to the noise!

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