An Overview Of The Radar Detector Laws And Legislation In The US

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The good news for all drivers thinking of buying a radar detector is that such a device is legal to be used in a passenger vehicle in all states except Washington and Virginia. On the other hand, if you are driving a commercial automobile with a weight of over 10,000 pounds, then you are not allowed to install or carry such a device. Given these clear state laws, why are motorists still pondering about the legality of utilizing a radar detector?

It all started with a minor confusion…


Even though drivers tend to use a radar detector and radar jammers as synonyms, it is necessary to point out that there are quite a few differences between the two devices. While a radar detector is a gadget employed to capture various radio frequencies and determine whether a radar gun is utilized to monitor the speed of the vehicle, the radar jammers work on the principle of interfering with the Doppler shift reflected by the radar gun. This is essentially why radar detectors are permitted nationwide, whereas jammers are deemed illegal. Furthermore, according to the current radar detector laws, attempting or succeeding to jam a police radar is considered a federal offense.

No, you can’t outsmart the police patrol!

It is important to note that if you intend to travel throughout the country with any of the aforementioned devices installed, it is in your best interest to check out those states’ radar detector laws first. The reason for this stems from the fact that in the areas where this equipment is prohibited, the law enforcement officers will utilize a tool that can immediately inform them on whether or not you are using a radar detector or a jammer.

The device is called the Specter and since 1997 when jammers were banned and some states have made radar detectors illegal, it has done an outstanding job. Without denying that there are some good anti-Specter tools out there, keep in mind that if you decide to utilize it in a prohibited area, then you do so at your own peril. To put it simply, if you have one, it is best to keep it shut down when you are traveling to:

  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington D.C.

Some states have looser radar detector laws

While numerous other states also used to prohibit the use of radar detectors and jammers, it is necessary to mention that their legislation has been modified in the recent years, in the benefit of the drivers. Therefore, while in Illinois this activity has not been regulated yet and you still risk a fine, in other states only hanging these devices on the windshield is considered illicit. The states that permit the use of radar detectors for passenger automobiles as long as they are not mounted on the windshield include:

  • California (the radar detector laws were modified in 2012)
  • Florida (legislation modified in 2009)
  • Minnesota (2009)
  • New Jersey (2012)
  • Pennsylvania (2012)

You can’t use on military grounds, irrespective of the state

Obviously, if you are at a military base anywhere in the United States you are not allowed to have your radar detector turned on. Even though the radar detector laws in your state are permissive and allow you to carry this device in your car, the US Departments of Transportation and Defense are very clear on this one, you either remove it or shut it down. Frankly, I can’t think of a good reason to why someone would speed when entering a military base.

Otherwise, you will be taken to court and since the law is crystal clear, keep in mind that it is impossible to win in this type of situations. And, depending on your driving record and the testimonies of the MPs, you might even lose your driving license. Luckily, the vast majority of military bases throughout the US have MPs that inform civilians/officers about the DOD laws before they enter the premises.

In conclusion

Overall, the radar detector laws in the United States are quite loose considering that the only limitations simply not utilizing it on the premises of a military base and when you are driving a commercial vehicle that exceeds a certain weight. In regards to the latter stipulation – the fact that you shouldn’t have the radar detector hanging on your windshield – this is nothing more than common sense and a legitimate concern for the safety of motorists.

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