Are radar detectors legal in your state?

Are radar detectors legal in your state?

July 18, 2018

Are you a car enthusiast who loves driving? Or are you someone who must travel a lot for work and just doesn’t want to worry about unfair speeding tickets? If so, you might already be thinking about purchasing a high end radar detector – and we are here to tell you that is a great idea! But perhaps your purchase is being held up by a simple question – are radar detectors legal? Will I get in trouble for using one?

Normal drivers aren’t the only ones that a radar detector might make sense for. Commercial drivers spend more time on the road than most, but there are separate set of laws governing radar detector use for commercial drivers. That’s where we come in – we’ll simplify what could be a complicated topic and give you what you’re looking for – yes or no!

Are radar detectors legal in the United States?

The simple answer is yes! On a federal level, there are no laws that restrict radar detector ownership, usage, or sales by non-commercial drivers. On a state level, there are only two areas that have restrictions prohibiting use – Virginia and Washington D.C. If you a non-commercial driver who is driving in any other state or district besides Virginia, you can use a radar detector without any repercussions.

Map of the United States - Virginia is highlighted in RED - Radar Detectors are illegal to use for non commercial drivers.

Driving in Virginia and Washington D.C. with a Radar Detector

While driving in Virginia and Washington D.C. with a radar detector is against vehicle code, let’s take a look at the wording of the law, which is outlined in Code of Virginia 46.2-1079:

It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth when such vehicle is equipped with any device or mechanism, passive or active, to detect or purposefully interfere with or diminish the measurement capabilities of any radar, laser, or other device or mechanism employed by law-enforcement personnel to measure the speed of motor vehicles on the highways of the Commonwealth for law-enforcement purposes…

A person shall not be guilty of a violation of this section when the device or mechanism in question, at the time of the alleged offense, had no power source and was not readily accessible for use by the driver or any passenger in the vehicle.

No demerit points shall be awarded by the Commissioner for violations of this section.

So, what are the take-aways from the way this law is written?

  1. It is technically illegal to operate a powered radar detector in Virginia.
  2. It is perfectly legal to own a detector if it is powered off. If the radar detector is unplugged and stored away (for example, in a trunk) this is not illegal.
  3. The punishment for being caught is a fine that is less expensive than the cost of a high-quality radar detector
  4. There no demerit points applied to your driver’s license for being caught with a radar detector

The way these laws are written is why many drivers that pass-through Virginia elect to leave their radar detectors on.

How do they know I am using a radar detector?

Believe it or not, police officers in Virginia and Washington D.C. have something called a “radar detector-detector!” These are devices that can detect a small amount of radar that is leaking out of your radar detector; they beep to alert the police officer that a radar detector user is nearby.

Dash mounted Radar detector - Detector, that poilice use to detect people using Radar Detectors in Virginia (Spectre Elite, a Radar Detector Detector)

(Spectre Elite, a Radar Detector Detector)

Most radar detectors like the Valentine One, Escort 9500, and Escort Max 360 are easily detected by these radar detector-detectors – which can lead to fines if used in Virginia and Washington D.C. More premium radar detectors such as the Radenso Pro M, Radenso XP, and Radenso SP are specially constructed to minimize leakage, and thus are undetectable to radar detector-detectors. If you ever see a radar detector that advertises “Spectre and VG-2 Immune” or “Stealth to RDD,” invisibility to these radar-detector detectors is what they are referring to.

Are suction cup mounts on windows legal?

One question that is often submitted to our support department is, “While I know radar detectors are legal to use in my area, isn’t it illegal to mount anything on my windshield?”

This is a good question, and the rules for this vary from state to state. In California and Minnesota, it is technically illegal to hang anything on the windshield which may obstruct the driver’s view. This is not often enforced, but it is possible that if you come across a law enforcement officer in a bad mood you will be cited for it.

Radenso Pr</a>o M using a Pro Series Visor Mount - mounted in a car ready to detect!

(Radenso Pro M using the slick Pro Series visor mount)

Pro Tip: If you want to be absolutely safe, many manufacturers offer a visor mount that allows the radar detector to hang on the car’s sun visor.

Are radar detectors illegal for commercial vehicles?

Semi Trucks driving down the interstate - commercial drivers

Radar detector laws for commercial drivers can be broken down into two categories – commercial vehicles over 10,000lbs, and commercial vehicles under 10,000lbs.

In the United States, radar detectors are prohibited federally in all commercial vehicles over 10,000lbs – and in all vehicles above 18,000lbs (including private vehicles).

Under 10,000lbs, the issue becomes regulated on a state-by-state level. In Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, all commercial vehicles are prohibited from using radar detectors. For the rest of the United States, as long as the vehicle is under 10,000lbs, there are no commercial vehicle restrictions.

While this may seem fairly complex, the upshot is that if you are not a commercial driver and live anywhere except Virginia or Washington D.C, radar detector use is 100% legal in your area.

Any other questions or topics that you want covered in our Radar University? We'd love to hear from you!