Man Fined $48K for Jamming Celluar Transmissions as He Drove on Interstate

May 2, 2014 - 9:02 AM

Florida is a state that still allows drivers to speak on their cellphones.  In Tampa, one man decided to go on a self-righteous crusade to keep commuters focused on the road.  His solution: buying a cellphone jammer.

One problem: it's illegal because it jams ALL cellular communications, including those of law enforcement, emergency responders and cell towers.

For the past two years, 60-year-old maverick Jason R. Humphreys took to heart the themes in the movie Watchmen a little too seriously, as his jammer was able to disrupt cell towers and emergency services communications.  That's potentially life-threatening.  His campaign finally ended when two county sheriff deputies pulled him over, which resulted in their two-way radios being interrupted by Humphreys' jamming device located behind a seat cover.

With Humphreys caught, the FCC has slapped him with $48,000 in fines, though he thought his jammers would only have an effect within a 30-foot radius.  That apparently wasn't the case (via the Tampa Tribune):

Humphreys told investigators he thought the jammer would work in a 30-feet radius, said Larry McKinnon, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman. Instead, McKinnon said, the jammer was powerful enough it was affecting cellphone towers.

FCC officials seized the device from Humphreys after he was pulled over by sheriff's deputies. The next day, the problems with the cellphone towers stopped, Metro PCS officials said.

The use of the technology is illegal and dangerous, McKinnon said.

"You are cutting off any communication for any type of emergency,'' McKinnon said. "You are potentially putting people's lives at risk."

In fact, it was because of his jammers' effectiveness that Humphreys was caught in the first place. (via Yahoo! News):

It turns out that Humphreys would have gone undetected if it hadn't been for a local carrier noticing that something was messing with its towers. MetroPCS (which is owned by T-Mobile) notified the Federal Communications Commission that there was a peculiar outage on a certain patch of the Interstate 4 highway and downtown Tampa exactly a year ago. The FCC looked into it and discovered that wideband emissions - broadcast activity with wide frequencies or wavelengths - were emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander.

These devices are so powerful and disruptive to major telecommunications services that the FBI actively goes after those who try to sell them on sites like Craigslist.