By Mitchell Lazarus, CommLawBlog, May 1, 2014
The defendant had sought to keep other drivers from talking on their phones.
Cell phone jammers are illegal, and can draw large fines from the FCC, but people keep using them anyway: to keep workplace employees off the phone; to limit calls to and from a cosmetology school or sheriff's office; or for peace and quiet on the bus.
Today's offender, one Jason R. Humphreys, drove his daily commute along Interstate 4 between Seffner and Tampa, Florida with a jammer concealed behind the seat cover of the passenger seat. His reason? To keep people from talking on their cell phones while driving. But his chosen method not only blocked drivers' calls -- including those to 911 -- but also calls by their passengers, people on nearby buses, and everybody else in range of his device.
When a local cell company reported receiving interference, the FCC's Tampa office swung into action. Tracking down interference from a moving car is a lot tougher than finding one that stays still, but Mr. Humphreys's signal was strong enough to locate -- and indeed, was strong enough to shut down the sheriff's deputies' radios as they approached his SUV. When the FCC later tested the jammer, they found it clobbered not only cell phone frequencies, but many others as well, including some of those used for communications among first responders.