Radio Scanners and New York State Law

Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

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Postby RailBus63 » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:09 am

To me, the bottom line is that while it is always possible that you could get a ticket, the chances of actually receiving one are minimal. Just obey traffic laws while driving (so that you don't get pulled over for something else and give the officer a chance to see your scanner close up) and don't trespass or otherwise act suspcious while trackside. Do this and you should be fine.

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Postby clearblock » Thu Feb 15, 2007 12:20 pm

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a Motorola or other commercial radio programmed for receive only on RR frequencies should not be prohibited under V&T 397. The problem is convincing a cop, who would see your possession of a 2Way radio as suspicious, of this fact. You may need a good lawyer.

Yes, the average railfan has not had problems with this law in the past as long as their behavior was discreet and law abiding. The only case I heard of in recent years involved some railfans speeding while chasing a train and the cop saw a working scanner on the dash when they were pulled over.

Most police officers don't go looking to enforce this law. The added risk now is that if you encounter a cop with the railfan=terrorist mentality, the possesion of the radio could be a "probable cause" for an arrest and search of you and your vehicle etc.

Be aware of the law and be discreet in your actions.
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Postby WANF-11--->Chaser » Sat Feb 24, 2007 12:18 pm

To me, the bottom line is that while it is always possible to get struck by lighting sitting under a tree, the chances of actually getting struck are minimal....
...that's fine unless you're the guy that evaporated from 50,000 volts...or you've got a pink ticket with a $25 fine (not counting the $35 mandatory NYS Surcharge BS). No I haven't gotten a scanner ticket, but I have gotten other tickets from the NYS Dept. of Tax collectors with guns...er sorry, I mean NYSP. :wink:

I dunno about you but I dont plan on funding the government any more than I already do. If that means leaving the scanner in the trunk out of sight and turned off, so be it.

Does anyone actually hear anything useful on a scanner other than a hotbox detector when railfanning a mainline these days? I live along a busy line and never hear anything all day other than HBDs.
I'm a De-Activist.
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Postby abaduck » Sat Feb 24, 2007 1:00 pm

WANF-11--->Chaser wrote:Does anyone actually hear anything useful on a scanner other than a hotbox detector when railfanning a mainline these days? I live along a busy line and never hear anything all day other than HBDs.


Well I've been using a scanner extensively in the Bear Mtn. area; they've been putting a new loop in at Ft. Montgomery, and you get quite a bit of notice of an approaching train when they call 'Foreman Potter' for permission to pass the work area. So, yes. You can also allegedly hear noises from the EOT device when a train gets within a couple of miles, though I've never bothered to try this.

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I am the history within'
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Postby FarmallBob » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:50 pm

WANF-11--->Chaser wrote:Does anyone actually hear anything useful on a scanner other than a hotbox detector when railfanning a mainline these days? I live along a busy line and never hear anything all day other than HBDs.


I live a couple miles from the CSX Chicago Line in Chili and leave my scanner tuned to the CSX road freq. Besides the pair nearby HBD's, I routinely hear engine crews calling the signals at CP's 373, 380 and 382.

In addition, exhanges between dispatchers and train crews are frequent and often informative. During daylight hours there's also regular traffic between dispatchers and track inspectors' hirailers, MOW crews, signal maintainers and the like. And there's occasional (and interesting) exchanges between engine crews, road foremen and motive power people when problems are encountered out on the road.

Recent example: A crew running brand new pair of ES44 Gevo's radioed they were stopped at CP 382 on account of an alarm would not reset so the leading unit would not load. Listened to nearly 2 hours of 2-way frustration as a tech in Florida had the crew execute various diagnostic commands from the desktop controls, then open/reset batches of circuit breakers and finally shut the unit down and restart it, all without success. (Gevo's run Windows software?!!). They finally gave up and were last heard pushing the recalcitrant unit on toward Buffalo.
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Postby O-6-O » Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:07 am

FarmalBob, I've heard the exact type of conversation between road crews
and techs in Jacksonville. The techies and railroaders are from differant
worlds thats for sure. The days of wedging wood pieces into contactors
is sure over. The radio I think is most handy near yards and near CPs
out on the road as that is where crews get a lot of info from the DS
about their route.
One way or the other we're gonna fix this railroad.
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Postby hebron_hapt » Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:31 pm

Regarding the NY State ban on scanners - I'd always heard that a rock-solid get-out-of-jail-free card is a Ham License. Because the Ham License is issued by a federal (rather than state) agency, federal law supercedes state law.
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Postby clearblock » Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:27 pm

Hams HAVE been arrested under this law but charges usually dropped.

Note that the law exempts only a ham operating a receiver that is part of a ham mobile station. It IS NOT a blanket exemption for a ham to use a scanner. This is consistent with the FCC policy statement that local governments can not ban a ham transceiver with extended receiver frequency coverage. The FCC policy says nothing about a "scanner" if it is not part of a ham transceiver.
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Postby nessman » Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:29 pm

Generally speaking the scanner law is largely unenforced and you need to be doing something stupid to get ticketed for it. For a ham to get a ticket, he has to be doing something really stupid.
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Postby Richard Long » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:35 am

Since death has diminished the population of Ham operators, the FCC has dropped all code requirements for licensing.

Just about anyone with moderate intelligence can now get a Technician class Ham license, and pretty much eliminate being bothered by New York's uniformed meter maids with bangbangs on their belts.

A few hours with the practice tests on www.qrz.com will acquaint you with the information you need to take the test.

Rest assured if a NY MeterMaid wants to hastle you, he/she/it can and will, and you'll get to spend some quality time in court proving 397 of the NY V&T code is a violation of the Communications Act of 1934, the superceding Federal Law.

Beyond 397, there is a section in the Penal Code regarding the use of a radio to comitt a crime. Should you be on railroad property, and the meter maid have an IQ above that necessary to write a traffic ticket/ NY Treasury Economic Enhancement, he/she/it will write the Penal Law violation. That one is far more difficult to beat if you don't have a Ham license.
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Postby jgallaway81 » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:16 pm

When I moved from NY to PA after the whole tax increase BS in '03, I wrote a letter to the senate asking that they change the titel of governor to 'emperor', and the official name of the state senate to 'NY Imperial State Senate'. As far as I know, neither recommendation was ever taken, even though I pointed out that the only official state correspondence that is not in fact false advertizing was the license plates, which proudly proclaim 'Empire State'.

I still think my friend's suggestion of a wood screw and the latin phrase 'bend over & take it again' was an excellent idea for the NYS state quarter.
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Postby scharnhorst » Sun Mar 11, 2007 5:23 pm

jgallaway81 wrote:When I moved from NY to PA after the whole tax increase BS in '03, I wrote a letter to the senate asking that they change the titel of governor to 'emperor', and the official name of the state senate to 'NY Imperial State Senate'. As far as I know, neither recommendation was ever taken, even though I pointed out that the only official state correspondence that is not in fact false advertizing was the license plates, which proudly proclaim 'Empire State'.

I still think my friend's suggestion of a wood screw and the latin phrase 'bend over & take it again' was an excellent idea for the NYS state quarter.


I always thought the Routs 81 and 90 would have looked beter on the state quarter with the words "the way out" would have been better as there the two main highways that cross the state.
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scanners in NYS

Postby izzy1975 » Sat Mar 17, 2007 12:38 pm

a little info as far as scanners go. the law states that firemen cant have a scanner in there car, well thats tru, however volunteer fire police can. A fire police officer of a vfd can have a scanner because a fire police is a peace officer without a pistol permit. i had a run in wit the law and had a copy of the V&T law with a my certificate stating i was a fire police. i did get a ticket but it was dropped and thrown out. my fire police certificate is good until i die I still continue to carry a scanner in my vehicle, never had a problem since
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Postby clearblock » Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:14 pm

Don't depend on an exemption for Fire Police if you go outside of your home jurisdiction. The exemption for a Peace Officer is only when "acting pursuant to his special duties". According to NYS CPL 2.10 paragraph 41 Fire Police have "Peace Officer" powers only when on duty at a fire, rescue or EMS incident for their own department or directed by their chief to respond to a particular call.

Like the "Ham" exemption, it is probable there would be reluctance to prosecute an off-duty Peace Officer but it is possible the way the law is worded. The fact of your "run in" shows the risk associated with a scanner in the vehicle.
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Postby pennsy » Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:26 pm

Hi All,

California doesn't have such problems, yet. However, it seems to me that if you are only listening, and cannot transmit on these frequencies, you have no problems.

The problems start when you have the capability of punching that transmit button and interferring with legal transmissions. And that includes calling the dispatcher an Idiot. Now it may very well be that he, or she, in fact is, but it is not your place to enlighten such a person as to their obvious defects.

As an ex- ham radio club member, W2HJ, I have seen and heard many, many interesting obvious violations of one kind or another. You haven't lived until you suddenly are cut off and your frequency broken into by a representative of the FCC informing you of your violation, identifying you by your call letters. Lots of fun. You anxiously await that letter in the next mail.
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