Are Radar Detectors Legal? Summary Points
- Radar detectors are mostly legal in the United States for personal vehicles, but there are some exceptions.
- Laser jammers are widely considered legal but are subject to a few more restrictions than radar detectors, depending on the state.
- Radar detectors are illegal to use in any commercial vehicle weighing over 10,000 lbs.
- This guide covers the radar detector laws for all 50 U.S. states.
Are Radar Detectors Legal?
Using a radar detector in a privately owned passenger vehicle is legal in the U.S., with the exception of Virginia and Washington D.C. However, there are some gray areas regarding the laws in Virginia.
According to Virginia law, having a radar detector is okay if it’s not accessible to the vehicle’s occupants and there is no power source. For example, if the unit is off and in the trunk, you should be in the clear. According to the Virginian-Pilot, you could face up to a $250 fine for violating the law. Police can also confiscate radar detectors on the spot if they stop you.
Are Radar Detectors Legal In Commercial Vehicles?
Radar detectors are illegal in any commercial vehicle weighing over 10,000 lbs., no matter what state you’re driving in. In commercial vehicles under 10,000 lbs., radar detectors are allowed in all states except for Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
If you are operating an 18-wheeler for the purpose of interstate commerce, radar detectors are absolutely illegal inside the cab, even if the unit is off. The ban on radar detectors, enacted by the Federal Highway Administration in 1994, is meant to discourage such large trucks from speeding.
Are Laser Jammers Legal?
Laser Jammers are illegal in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington D.C. However, since there is no federal law banning them, they can be used in other states.
Laser jammers work by transmitting invisible light sources back to the original police laser gun (or LiDAR gun) to confuse it. These types of laser guns are much more direct and allow officers to pinpoint a single vehicle more effectively. The return signal confuses the laser gun, and as a result, the officer cannot “clock” the driver’s speed.
What About Radar Jammers?
Radar jammers or scramblers are illegal in all 50 states because they interfere with the broad signal law enforcement uses to target speeding vehicles, but they can even cause problems for airplanes. Federal law (Section 333 of the Communication Act of 1934) describes radar jammers as a “malicious interference.” Even a first offense can result in heavy fines and jail time.
Are Radar Detectors Legal In My State?
Let’s take a look at radar detection laws by state. Note that federal law prohibits using radar detectors on military bases in all 50 states.
Using radar detectors is legal in private vehicles in Alabama. Laser jammers are also legal.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Alaska.
There are no limitations for radar detectors in private vehicles in Arizona. Laser jammers are legal too.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Arkansas.
In California, radar detectors are legal, but the state does have a say about where they are positioned (Minnesota does too). In California, you cannot mount anything to the windshield as it may obstruct the view. If you have a radar detector in California, you must mount it on the dashboard. If you get caught with it on the windshield, you can be ticketed. Laser jammers are also illegal in the Golden State.
Radar detectors are legal in Colorado, but laser jammers are illegal under state law.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Connecticut.
In Delaware, you can legally use a radar detector or laser jammer in a private vehicle. Note that independent studies in recent years have shown Delaware is among the strictest states when it comes to speeding.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Florida.
It is legal to have a radar detector or laser jammer in a private vehicle in Georgia.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are permitted in the Aloha State.
You can legally use a radar detector or laser jammer in Idaho.
Radar detectors are legal in Illinois. Laser jammers, however, are not permitted. Likewise, radar detectors are not allowed in any commercial vehicle, even if it’s under 10,000 lbs.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Indiana.
The verbiage of Chapter 321 of Iowa’s motor vehicles and law of the road (more specifically, this section here) indicates that laser jammers are illegal in the Hawkeye State. Standard radar detectors, absent a laser jammer upgrade, appear to be okay for personal use in a passenger vehicle based on the language used.
For that long stretch across I-70, you’re in luck. Radar detectors and laser jammers are both legal in Kansas.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Kentucky.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are both legal in the Pelican State.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are permitted in Maine.
Unlike in the neighboring state of Virginia, radar detectors are legal in private vehicles in Maryland. Laser jammers are also legal in Maryland.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Massachusetts.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are both legal. However, be aware if you are crossing over to Windsor from Detroit. Radar detectors are not legal in Ontario, and local law enforcement has been known to confiscate them.
Minnesota law is similar to California. You can have a radar detector, but it cannot be mounted to the windshield. If you live in Minnesota, secure it to the dashboard instead to avoid getting a ticket. Keep in mind that laser jammers are illegal under state law. Radar detectors are not allowed in a commercial vehicle, even if it’s under 10,000 lbs.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Mississippi.
In Missouri, radar detectors and laser jammers are legal.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Montana.
Radar detectors are legal in Nebraska. Laser jammers are illegal, as are all references to the Colorado Buffaloes (which didn’t change even though the Huskers are in the Ben Ten now).
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Nevada.
29. New Hampshire
New Hampshire permits radar detectors and laser jammers in private vehicles.
30. New Jersey
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in New Jersey. However, radar detectors are not allowed in commercial vehicles in The Garden State, even if they are under 10,000 lbs.
31. New Mexico
In New Mexico, it is okay to have a radar detector or laser jammer in a private vehicle.
32. New York
Both radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in New York. However, radar detectors are not allowed in commercial vehicles even if they are under 10,000 lbs.
33. North Carolina
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in the Tar Heel State.
34. North Dakota
North Dakota allows the use of radar detectors and laser jammers.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are both legal.
Oklahoma permits the use of radar detectors and laser jammers in private vehicles.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Oregon.
In the Keystone State, it’s okay to use either a radar detector or laser jammer.
39. Rhode Island
Radar detectors and laser jammers are allowed in Rhode Island.
40. South Carolina
Radar detectors are legal in South Carolina, but laser jammers are illegal.
41. South Dakota
South Dakota state law permits the use of radar detectors and laser jammers.
Radar detectors are legal in Tennessee, but not laser jammers.
Texas allows radar detectors in private vehicles, but laser jammers are not permitted.
Radar detectors are legal in Utah, although laser jammers are not.
In Vermont, radar detectors and laser jammers are legal.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are illegal in Virginia.
The State of Washington allows radar detectors and laser jammers in private vehicles.
48. West Virginia
Radar detectors and laser jammers are both legal.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are permitted in The Badger State.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are legal in Wyoming.
51. Washington D.C.
Radar detectors and laser jammers are illegal to use in the District of Columbia.
What Are The Best Radar Detectors?
Best Tech Features: Escort MAXcam 360c
If you are looking for the latest and greatest with all the bells and whistles, the Escort MAXcam 360c, a two-in-one combo unit, is an excellent choice. The MAXcam combines an upgraded version of Escort’s MAX 360c radar detector with a 1440p dash camera. Here are some additional resources on the MAXcam:
- Full Review & Driving Evaluation: We have a written review of the MAXcam 360c and a YouTube video covering the unit’s primary features, benefits, and drawbacks.
- MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector: If you don’t need the dash camera, you can save money by purchasing the radar detector on which the MAXcam is based. We have a written review of the MAX 360c MKII and a YouTube video covering each radar detector in Escort’s MAX family.
Good Reliability: Uniden R4
If you need something less expensive but still reliable in terms of long-range detection and false alert filtering, take a look at either the Uniden R3 or R4. Here are some additional resources:
- Comparison Breakdown: In short, the Uniden R4 is a newer, more improved version of the R3. This helpful guide between the two units will get into further specifics.
- YouTube Videos: We have quick but detailed video reviews on the Uniden R3 (here) and Uniden R4 (here). Each video covers the main features and specifications.
Most Affordable: Cobra RAD 700i
Among the most affordable radar detectors is the Cobra RAD 700i, despite occupying the top spot in Cobra’s RAD family. Although it’s a more basic radar detector, we were pleasantly surprised by its false alert filtering capabilities during our review.
As one of Cobra’s newer radar detectors, the RAD 700i benefits from the latest applications of digital signal processing, which is evident in the fewer number of false alerts relative to other Cobra units we have tested and reviewed, like the 480i.
Are Radar Detectors Legal Summary
Using a radar detector in a privately owned passenger vehicle is legal in the U.S., with the exception of Virginia and Washington D.C. By contrast, radar detectors are illegal in any commercial vehicle weighing over 10,000 lbs., no matter what state you’re driving in.
If you have additional questions or just want to chat about radar detectors, join us on the Radar Detector and Countermeasures Forum.
Carl Anthony is the Managing Editor of Automoblog and the host of AutoVision News Radio and AutoSens Insights. He is a Midwest Automotive Media Association member and on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation. Like many Detroiters, Carl is holding out for a Lions Super Bowl win.
Radar Detectors FAQ
How Do Radar Detectors Work?
While proprietary technology can differ between each radar detector manufacturer, think of a standard radar detector in terms of receiving and deciphering.
Every radar detector has a “horn” or antenna (sometimes more than one) and an internal microprocessor. The antenna picks up or receives the police radar gun, and the microprocessor deciphers it, ultimately showing on the display screen important info like signal strength and band type.
Radar detector manufacturers build on that basic principle with their own hardware and software to achieve increased detection range with fewer false alerts.
Will My Radar Detector Alert to Laser Guns?
Yes, all radar detectors will alert to police laser guns, meaning your radar detector is also a laser detector by default.
Some radar detectors are compatible with an accessory called laser shifters, but those are different from laser jammers, which are illegal in some states. Police laser guns use a technology called lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging.
What Is The Best Radar Detector For Me?
The best radar detector for you will depend on where and how you drive and how much you want to spend.
If you love having the latest and greatest gadgets, you might enjoy the features a high-end unit will provide. By contrast, if you only need a gentle reminder of police radar in the area, you can find something more basic but still of good quality.
I Saw a Police Car, Why Didn’t My Radar Detector Alert?
Sometimes, a patrol car will have its radar gun off, meaning there is nothing for the radar detector to alert to. Traffic officers also use an enforcement strategy called “Instant-On” radar, where they only use their radar gun at certain times (think like the storied image of the officer on the motorcycle hiding behind the billboard).
If this happens, traffic officers will only target one vehicle at a time. Most high-quality radar detectors will alert to Instant-On radar with plenty of advanced notice, although it’s still possible to get a ticket via Instant-On if you are not careful.