Communications Law

Attempt to stop drivers from talking on cellphones could cost this commuter a $48K penalty


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A Florida commuter who disliked drivers using their cellphones could be hit with a big fine for his attempt to stop the talking with a jamming device.

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $48,000 forfeiture penalty for 60-year-old Jason Humphreys, report the Tampa Tribune and the Register, which links to the FCC’s notice of liability (PDF).

Humphreys is accused of using the jammer during his commute between Seffner and Tampa on Interstate 4. The FCC investigated after receiving a complaint from the cellular company Metro PCS. Investigators staked out I-4 in May 2013 and noted a “strong wideband emission” coming from Humphreys’ Toyota Highlander, the notice says.

Humphreys admitted using the device to stop drivers from talking on their cellphones, but he thought it had only a 30-foot radius, police told the Tampa Tribune. In reality the device was powerful enough to affect cellphone towers and police communications, the notice says. The FCC proposes a forfeiture penalty of $16,000 for each of three violations, for a total of $48,000. The alleged violations are use of illegal equipment, operation of the equipment without authorization, and interference with authorized communications.

Jamming devices are banned by federal law partly because they can interfere with 911 calls. The Tampa Tribune was unable to reach Humphreys for comment. Humphreys has 30 days to pay the penalty or explain his objections, the story says.

According to the Register, the FCC has also proposed fines against a company that used a jamming device to keep workers from talking on cellphones while on the job and against a New Jersey truck driver.

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

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