Surprisingly, police scanners are legal for some kinds of private use in Kentucky. But Kentucky restricts the equipment that private citizens may use and how they may use it.

Here are the things that you should know about Kentucky’s police scanner law and the legal uses of police scanners in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Police Scanner Law

Kentucky has a comprehensive police scanner law. The state legislature drafted a broad law that begins with the restriction of any private possession of police scanners. The law then establishes several exceptions.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about Kentucky’s police scanner laws.

Are Police Scanners Illegal?

Kentucky’s law does not specifically outlaw police scanning equipment.

Kentucky prohibits police scanners in all vehicles with a few exceptions, which we’ll explore below.

Official Police Vehicles

Kentucky’s law allows for possession of police scanners by police officers. Police officers cannot possess scanners in their private vehicles. But vehicles that are owned by the state, carry an official license plate, and are used by members of a police force can have a police scanner.

Private Vehicles Used by the Department of Corrections

Parole and probation officers can install a police scanner into private vehicles that are used to conduct their official duties.

Tow Trucks

Towing companies can install police scanners in their licensed commercial auto towing trucks.

First Responders

Firefighters and EMTs can have police scanners. However, they must obtain written permission from their employer and from the local police department whose frequencies they monitor. 

Emergency management personnel can have police scanners with permission from the state agency or city that employs them.

Other Law Enforcement

State prosecutors, county attorneys, and peace officers from other jurisdictions — such as the FBI or ICE teams investigating federal crimes — can have police scanners in their vehicles.

Is It Illegal to Have a Police Scanner in a Home?

It’s not illegal to have a police scanner in a private residence. However, a private citizen can only have a receiver — they may not have a transmitter.

Is It Illegal to Listen to a Police Scanner?

Kentucky law allows a private citizen to listen to a police scanner for news or education. But Kentucky law prohibits you from listening to a police scanner to facilitate a crime or escape police.

Is It Illegal to Listen to Police Radio Over the Internet?

Online resources and mobile apps convert police scanner signals into live streams. This can allow someone in Fairbanks, AK, to listen to a Lexington, KY, police scanner over the Internet.

Technically, a computer or cell phone that’s running a police scanner app does not qualify as a police scanner itself. Under Kentucky law, a police scanner is a “mobile radio set or apparatus” that receives or transmits signals on the wavelength or channel used by police.

The app does not use the wavelength or channel used by police. Rather, it uses a Wi-Fi or mobile broadband signal used for Internet communication.

Kentucky’s law exempts several others from its restriction on police scanners, including:

  • News reporters
  • Ham radio operators
  • Electronics stores
  • TV and radio stations

Kentucky law prohibits all other uses of police scanners.

Penalties for Police Scanner Violations

Prosecutors charge police scanner violations as a misdemeanor. These charges carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of $50 to $500.

If you use a police scanner to assist someone in facilitating a crime or evading police, prosecutors could charge you as a conspirator or even a co-defendant in the underlying felony.