California has perhaps one of the longest and most voluminous sets of laws dealing with monitoring and the scanner hobbyist. With all the attention the State has received with the recall election for the governor’s seat in California, this month we turn our attention West to the Golden State and its listening laws.
Most of its laws can be found under Chapter 1.5, Title 15 Miscellaneous Crimes, California Penal Code, Sections 630 to 637.9 and cover the gamut of eavesdropping violations. However, of all the sections one is of particular interest to the scanner listener -- section 636.5 titled "Police Radio Communications; prohibited interceptions; penalty."
Section 636.5 prohibits any person who is not authorized by the sender, to intercept any public safety radio service communication, by use of a scanner or any other means (such as online scanner audio on the Internet), for the purpose of using that communication to assist in the commission of a criminal offense or to avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. It also punishes those who divulge to any person he or she knows to be a suspect in the commission of any criminal offense, the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect or meaning of that communication concerning the offense intending that the suspect avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. Violations of Section 636.5 in California are considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail for less than one year or both.