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Florida Man Faces $48k Fine For Jamming Drivers' Cellphones 358

Posted by timothy
from the carl-hiaasen-on-high-alert dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from The Independent: An American driver is facing a $48,000 fine after using a mobile signal jammer in his car to block motorists around him from using their phones on the road. Jason Humphreys reportedly used the jammer from the back seat of his Toyota Highlander for around two years before being caught by Florida police. The 60-year-old said that he used the jammer – which transmits radio signals that interfere with mobile phones – because he was 'fed up' with watching others use their phones on the road. A story from late April (before the fine was levied) gives more detail: The case along I-4 started on April 29, 2013, when the cellular company Metro PCS contacted the Federal Communications Commission because a transmission tower along I-4 would suffer in the morning and evening. A week later, agents from the FCC's enforcement division in Tampa staked out the freeway on May 7, 8, and 9 and pinpointed a “strong wideband emission” in the cellphone wireless range “emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle,” with Florida license plates, according to a complaint issued by the FCC on Tuesday. Another clue: When Hillsborough County Sheriffs deputies stopped the SUV, their own two-way radios were jammed."
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Florida Man Faces $48k Fine For Jamming Drivers' Cellphones

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  • Dup (Score:3, Informative)

    by lecithin (745575) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:08AM (#47305727)
  • You know ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:21AM (#47305837) Homepage

    I can't say I disagree with why he did it, but it's kind of hard to argue that he didn't break the law.

    From what I can tell, at any given time a huge fraction of drivers are either texting, or holding onto their phone and talking.

    If where I lived introduced one of those bounties where you get money if you can get a picture of a face and a license plate using the phone while driving ... well, I could go a few blocks from my house to an intersection, and pay off my house in a few weeks.

    Almost weekly I find myself behind someone who is driving a little erratic because they're holding their phone with one hand, gesturing with the other, and not paying attention to what's going on around them.

    I feel bad for this guy, but I fear he's probably screwed, since he broke the law in doing this. If someone had needed to call 911 near him that wouldn't have worked out well.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      I'm inclined to agree. Even if one accepts his arguments, what he did is essentially a form of vigilantism, up to and including the strong risk of not ending well.

      • If what is said in the summary is true, we're past the point of a "strong risk" of it not ending well and are well into that being a reality. Apparently, this genius radio engineer was also causing interference for the two-way radio systems used by first-responders.

    • I don't feel bad for him at all.

      He's just lucky he's not holding an FCC license of some kind (amatuer radio or a business license) or he wouldn't be getting off with such a small fine. (Wouldn't surprise me if he also ended up barred from holding such licenses, but there's nothing in TFA that says that.) Especially since he was also causing interference in the public saftey bands.

    • The problem was jemming the cell tower. The regular denial of service was noticed and investigated. Towers service an area beyond the street.

    • Remember that we sacrifice safety for convenience every time we get into a vehicle. I'd like to see data comparing speeds to using a cell phone: if allowing drivers to use phones is as dangerous as increasing the speed limit by 30 mph, that's one thing. If using a cell phone only translates to the same risk as raising the speed limit by 5 mph, then I say allow it.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Remember that we sacrifice safety for convenience every time we get into a vehicle. I'd like to see data comparing speeds to using a cell phone: if allowing drivers to use phones is as dangerous as increasing the speed limit by 30 mph, that's one thing. If using a cell phone only translates to the same risk as raising the speed limit by 5 mph, then I say allow it.

        Well, TECHNICALLY it's safer when there are people using cellphones because they naturally drive slower than traffic. And slowing down traffic mea

        • The vast majority of road incidents involve driver distractions, so I don't think that reducing speed (which is not necessarily a cause of accidents) by increasing the distraction is really going to work out very well.
    • Re:You know ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GameMaster (148118) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:39AM (#47306003)

      He's screwed because he's a complete moron. He's just another asshole with anger management issues and/or delusions of grandeur who decided to grant himself law enforcement powers. Not only did he block cellphones but, apparently, he was also interfering with the radio communications of first-responders. It'd be like someone driving up onto a busy sidewalk for a chance to get photographic evidence of someone jaywalking...

      • Re:You know ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Larry_Dillon (20347) <dillon DOT larry AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:42AM (#47306579) Homepage

        Your second sentence is correct, but part of the social contract wherein citizens forgo taking the law into their own hands is effective law enforcement. Nearly every time you see citizens resort to vigilante justice, it's due to a lack of effective law enforcement.

        • by westlake (615356)

          Nearly every time you see citizens resort to vigilante justice, it's due to a lack of effective law enforcement.

          Talk to a black man of a certain age and he will remind you that law enforcement was often deeply corrupted and very much a part of the vigilante justice of his time. Look closely at the vigilantes of any era and you aren't likely to like what you see.

    • Re:You know ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:40AM (#47306025)

      Statistics and facts don't agree with you:

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/texting-bans-dont-reduce-crashes-effects-are-slight-crash-increases [iihs.org]

      Numbers don't lie. Think about what you are advocating. In South Carolina a texting ban was just approved. Anyone that gets into any minor accident now can have their entire cellphone bill accessed to verify they weren't texting. We just created the lowest bar ever for a court to approve access to cellphone records by local police. I can't even imagine what would happen if they wanted to see your Google Talk or iChat logs to verify you weren't using them.

      • Re:You know ... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:52AM (#47306137)

        I honestly think that texting and cell phone bans are just using the "third brake light" effect. To get what I'm talking about, cars made before a certain year (I forget exactly when this was) only had two brake lights, one on each side of the rear of the car. Then, one year, the federal government decreed that all cars made that year and in the future needed to have a third brake light, the theory being that the third light would reduce accidents by making it more obvious when a driver was braking.

        The year that regulation went into effect, there was a significant drop in the number of accidents nation-wide. The numbers increased but were still lower than normal for each of the next three or so years, and then suddenly all of the benefit from the third brake light was gone and accidents were back up to normal numbers. Most people who have studied it believe the reason was that the third brake light was something strikingly different from what people were used to, and caused them to pay more attention to the lights - but then people got used to it and the benefits of the third brake light went away.

        The same thing is apparent with texting-while-driving laws. Accidents go down a little when the law is first enacted, then go back up afterward.

        • by penix1 (722987)

          I honestly think that texting and cell phone bans are just using the "third brake light" effect.

          I would agree with you IF the intention of those laws were truly about safety. They are not. It is all about revenue. In my state of WV the cell phone ban went into effect last year. It is a primary offense, meaning they can pull you over just for that, with fines starting at $200 for the first offense and increasing from there for subsequent offenses. And of course, like any other moving violation, your insuran

          • by Yebyen (59663)

            I am pretty sure you can get away with inspecting your car only once, when you buy it, even still in New Hampshire. They are probably not the only state. Don't know about liability insurance, but I don't know if I'd want to drive (or walk, or even be near a road) in a place where individuals were allowed to wing around a half ton of metal at 50+MPH without carrying some automotive liability insurance.

          • Lots of places don't require vehicle inspection, the one time I've had to have mine done was when I was living in a major city otherwise I've been on the road 15 years without requiring an inspection (WI outside of Milwaukee and Iowa).

            As for insurance... you're driving a 2 ton chunk of metal at 70 mph, I see no problem requiring that you be able to pay for your portion of potential damages in the event that you cause an accident.

          • Oklahoma abandoned the vehicle inspection sticker several years ago. Not saying it was a good idea, but there is at least one state...
        • I've been seeing too many vehicles with flashing lights lately that didn't used to have them, from school buses and garbage trucks to mall cops. It's making true emergency vehicles, such as police/fire/ambulance not stand out as much as then used to.

          • I have seen the same thing...various city vehicles, street sweepers, even temporary street signs that have red and blue lights on them now. It's very confusing seeing several sets of red-n-blues slowly moving down the highway in the middle of the night, giant cloud of dust around them...at first it looks like some industrial accident happening but then it turns out to be frakking street cleaners! It basically makes everyone ignore red-n-blue even more, since now it might just be some city vehicle sitting
      • To be honest, I'd be more concerned about being in a traffic accident than the police getting access to phone records. Privacy is important, but so is not driving a ton of steel into someone else. Maybe this would reduce traffic congestion if everyone who values their privacy chooses to not drive their own vehicle in case they crashed.
    • If he used the jammer selectively, when he was next to a distracted driver, that would one thing. But he left it running all the time. That's going too far.

    • by ZenMonk (1967080)

      I also agree with the guy in principle, but there are two big problems with how he went about it:

      1. The signal strength on the jammer was obviously way too high. It's one thing to fuzz-out the obnoxious talk&text drivers in your general vicinity, but he was also apparently jamming the cell tower itself, which could affect everyone in that cell -- albeit just while he's driving by -- not just the drivers around him.
      2. Maybe related to the first, but more serious, his jammer hit the police radio too. Muckin
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I am definitely not defending that he did it, or how he did it.

        But, from what I can tell, people are simply not going to stop using their phones while driving without a lot more enforcement and penalties.

        I figure places where this is illegal could generate huge revenues (and hopefully start to effect change) by much more aggressively enforcing the bans.

        I totally agree what he did was illegal, stupid, and dangerous. But I also can't help but notice the sheer number of drivers who are on their phones and dri

    • by Desler (1608317)

      So passengers aren't allowed to use their phones? Police/fire/ambulance drivers shouldn't be able to use their two-way radios? I can't make a call, possibly an emergency call, on the side of the road?

      There is nothing to agree with him about because he was potentially jamming all sorts of perfectly legal communications.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @12:15PM (#47306929)

      I can't say I disagree with why he did it

      I disagree with why he did it. He could have easily jammed 911 calls, ambulance transmissions to hospitals, law enforcement, first responder requests/communications, etc. Not to mention all the people he blocked who were not driving, i.e. passengers. He unilaterally decided that his needs were more important than everyone else's. As far as I'm concerned he should see some jail time in addition to a huge fine. This is not a small deal.

      From what I can tell, at any given time a huge fraction of drivers are either texting, or holding onto their phone and talking.

      That's true but it doesn't give anyone the right to go all vigilante about the problem.

      I feel bad for this guy,

      I don't. He's a self indulgent asshole.

  • Seems contrary... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rurouni_Jaden (846065) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:25AM (#47305871)
    Seems contrary to what he is trying to accomplish. I assume he wants people to put their phones down and pay more attention to driving. I think the results will be more people looking at their phones in confusion, trying to redial, etc. i.e. the exact opposite of paying more attention to their driving.
  • Randomize. Have the thing be on every third day or for 20 minutes then off or some other timer. Even a toggle switch on the dash so it could be turned on when "needed" vs always on. They will find you if it's always on.

    [John]

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:40AM (#47306015) Journal
    Jamming signals is illegal, and it could affect lots of legitimate use of cell phone use without being distracted. Data link for emergency and police vehicles, streaming in music, passengers using cell phones etc. So what he did was wrong.

    But he could could have bought one of those russian style dash cams. Mounted it on near the roof line, looking sideways and downwards. May be two such cams on either side of the vehicle. Record it continuously and report the actual distracted drivers, along with the video footage to police. Or without even going to police upload them into some kind of YouTube channel and shame them into compliance. When they see how seriously long, their "momentary" glance at the texts, the distance covered when they were distracted, most sane people will feel compelled to comply. After all, 99.9% of the people do come to full stop at stop signs even when there is no other vehicle is in sight, without any one policing it.

    • by sinij (911942)
      No, "most sane people" will not comply, because everyone is 'above average skill' drivers, and car wrecks happen to 'other people'.

      Don't underestimate addictiveness of "always connected" lifestyle and power to rationalize away your bad decisions.
      • It appears that way. And I do my fair share of calling other drivers idiots and imbeciles. But by and large Americans obey traffic laws very well, the compliance rate is very very high. I know for a fact that the violations are at least two orders of magnitude higher in India. The accidents/fatalities/injuries per 1000 passenger kilometer stats tell the whole story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:46AM (#47306087)

    ... drivers trying to troubleshoot their phones. If you've ever been in the car with someone trying to reboot their phone, re-sync bluetooth, change their map destination, etc... you know they are more dangerous than anyone talking - I wonder how many inadvertent accidents his jammer caused.

    • I can hear the ambulance-chaser ads now:

      Were you in an accident on Florida's I-5 between April 2013 and April 2014, due to a malfunction with your cell phone? If so, you may be entitled to a cash settlement! Call the law offices of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe today to sign on to our class action lawsuit!

  • by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:49AM (#47306113)
    When car started to be equipped with electronic spark control, it was found that a particular UK car brand was very prone to RFI from CB stations. Whenever the RF field was strong enough, the car engine stopped due to EM interference.
    CB radio drivers, whenever they spotted this car type in the London traffic, drove close to it, honked at the poor driver to get his attention, and then showed him their hand pressing the push-to-talk button of the transceiver...
  • You gotta wonder how many watts his jammer was putting out if it was able to affect a cell phone tower than was several hundred feet away if not further. There are 100-watt mobile models available.

    I'm not one of those people who think the minuscule power a cell phone puts out is going to rot your brain from occasional use but I've got to imagine that lots of watts in close proximity at that frequency can't be good. Especially daily for two years.

    Oddly enough, using this RF calculator [hintlink.com], seems to show no safet

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