What Are The Laws on Radar Detectors in the USA?

What Are The Laws On Radar Detectors In The USA - Featured ImageIf you plan on driving near the speed limit, it behooves you to pick up a radar detector for your car. Radar detectors give you a notification when the police are sweeping your car for being over the speed limit by using a radar gun or LIDAR apparatus.

Radar detectors give citizens the edge on the road, but they aren’t legal everywhere. In some states, radar detectors are totally illegal, and in most states, there is at least a pertinent law on the books.

In this article, we’ll discuss which radar detector laws you should be aware of so that you can drive without worrying about being pulled over for trying to avoid being pulled over.

Radar Detectors Vs. Radar Jammers

First, radar detectors and radar jammers are two separate pieces of equipment even though they may be commonly discussed in the same context.

Radar detectors are passive collectors of radar signals and are not federally illegal. You probably will be asked to remove your radar detector before traveling onto a military installation, but it isn’t illegal to have one.

The only exception is for commercial vehicles over 10,000 lbs., which are not permitted to have radar detectors.

Radar jammers, on the other hand, are active denial systems which emit a contradictory signal to civilian radar. These have the potential to disrupt the operation of all sorts of equipment, ranging from airplane navigation to the police officer’s radar gun.

Radar jammers are illegal everywhere in the US via federal law.

States Where There Are Some Radar Detector Restrictions

New Jersey, Illinois, and New York have restrictions on radar detectors which are used in commercial vehicles. Interestingly, the restrictions overlap with the federal guidelines on radar detector restrictions, meaning that if your commercial vehicle is over 10,000 lbs., you’ll face a state and also federal citation.

Unique to these states, commercial vehicles heavier than 18,000 lbs. are also banned from possessing radar detectors. Leave it off of your RV.

In your vehicle, you should be good to go with your radar detector in these states.

In Minnesota and California, radar detectors are not explicitly illegal, but you may get into trouble with the law – selectively – if you affix the detector to your windshield or rear view mirror.

So long as you keep it on the dashboard and it doesn’t obstruct your vision, you should be fine. Notably, most states have some similar law on the books – or, even if they don’t, police officers often can find cause to pull people over if there are things obstructing the driver’s vision.

States Where All Radar Detectors Are Illegal

In Virginia and Washington DC, all radar detectors are illegal. You’ll get a citation if you’re caught using one, and the officer may decide to confiscate it. It may be hard to purchase a radar detector in these states as a result of their illegality.

You will probably be fine so long as you remove your radar detector from your dash and store it somewhere safe while you drive through these areas.

States Where Radar Detectors Are Legal Or Unlegislated

Most states allow radar detectors without any hesitation. With that being said, they are not explicitly legal in any state except for Connecticut.

In Connecticut, radar detectors were banned for a time. The ban was eventually repealed, which means that the radar detectors are explicitly within the bounds of the modifications which you are allowed to make or attach to your car.

In the other states, you can’t be issued a citation as a result of your radar detector. Nonetheless, there are a few pointers which you should keep in mind:

  • Police officers may not take kindly to seeing that you have a radar detector
  • It’s important that you have a detection-only device; any jamming capabilities are illegal
  • Avoid mounting the detector somewhere that it might be construed as blocking your vision or impeding your ability to drive normally
  • Keep your radar detector inside of your car at all times, even if it’s more effective on the outside
  • If your radar detector has an interactive screen, more laws might apply which would prevent you from messing with it while your car is in motion – try to find a hands-free device or one with a minimal interface
  • If you get pulled over, don’t debate the law with the officer – it’s not worth the hassle, even if you’re right
  • Newer radar technology requires newer radar detectors to detect, so make sure that your detector is less than five years old
Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.