Jamming someone's communications sounds like something straight out of science fiction. But with advancements in cellular and Wi-Fi technology, it's quickly becoming science fact. Before you go out trying to shut down your neighbor's cell service, though, you should understand that, according to the Federal Communications Commission, jamming cell phones and GPS equipment is against the law.
So what are the legal restrictions and how are they enforced?
Kick Out the Jams
Under the Communications Act of 1934, FCC rules, and the federal criminal code, "the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment" is illegal. According to the FCC's site on jammer enforcement:
The use of 'cell jammers' or similar devices designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications (signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, etc.) is a violation of federal law. Also, it is unlawful to advertise, sell, distribute, or otherwise market these devices to consumers in the United States. These devices pose serious risks to critical public safety communications, and can prevent you and others from making 9-1-1 and other emergency calls. Jammers can also interfere with law enforcement communications. Operation of a jammer in the United States may subject you to substantial monetary penalties, seizure of the unlawful equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.
"Jamming devices create serious safety risks," said Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "In the coming weeks and months, we'll be intensifying our efforts through partnerships with law enforcement agencies to crack down on those who continue to violate the law."
Get Off My (Digital) Lawn
It doesn't matter if you're a teacher who's fed up with students using their cell phones in your classroom, or a train passenger annoyed at people talking on their cell phones, you can get arrested for suing a cell phone jammer. (Though we can totally relate to that train rider's enjoyment of a six-pack of Old Style beer on his evening commute.) And unlawful interference with a public utility, i.e. telephone service, is a felony offense.
So think twice before becoming an amateur telecommunications hacker, and contact an attorney if you've been charged with jamming someone else's phone.
- Facing criminal charges? Get your case reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal)
- GPS, Wi-Fi, and Cell Phone Jammers FAQs (FCC)
- Hotel Chains Ask FCC to Let Them Jam Personal Wi-Fi Hotspots (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Are Radar Jammers Illegal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)