Are radar detectors legal? Great question. There’s a lot to know about radar detectors and whether or not they are legal—in this article, we will go over all the laws and facts you need to know about radar detectors being illegal so that you can cruise the highway without any qualms.
So, you like to drive fast. Maybe a little too fast? Some drivers heavily depend on their radar detectors—devices that alert you if there is a cop nearby—so that they don’t get pricey speeding tickets. While we can’t support those who drive over the speed limit (it’s illegal, you know), we can at least help you decipher whether or not your radar detector is illegal. After all, these devices are pretty cheap and can pay off quickly if it means avoiding even just one $300 speeding ticket.
Ready to find out the radar detector laws?
Are Radar Detectors Legal?
We wish we could give you a clear-cut answer, but, like the United States justice system, it’s complicated. Because the U.S. is comprised of 50 states that are able to create their own driving laws, the answer to “Are radar detectors legal?” can vary greatly depending on the state you’re driving in. But, for the sake of providing you with the best answers we can, we will try to outline the different rules for you.
Radar Detector Laws in the United States
Generally speaking, using a radar detector while driving is legal except in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Let us repeat: Radar detectors are legal in 49 states, as long as you are not driving a large commercial vehicle or you are not on a military base. If you’re just a regular person driving to work in your own car, and you’re not in Virginia or Washington D.C., you can use a radar detector. Virginia and Washington D.C. are the only two states/areas where radar detectors are illegal.
Additionally, it is federally illegal for people on military bases and those driving commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds to use radar detectors, so as long as you don’t fall into either of those categories, you should be O.K.
But you’re not off the hook yet! As we mentioned, some states have specific rules surrounding radar detectors, though they are not illegal in all of them. In more than half of the states, there are laws that prohibit you from hanging items from your windshield, because it’s believed these items hinder your view and, thus, your safety. Some states even have laws about the specific types and placement of items on your windshield! To be safe, don’t suction your radar detector to the windshield.
However, if you did want to mount the radar detector to your windshield, here are the lists of states where windshield obstruction is illegal, where it might be alright, and where windshield obstruction is not illegal. Keep in mind that this information also applies to other items such as dash cams you suction to your windshield and even things you hang from your rearview mirror.
States Where Windshield Obstruction is Illegal
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States Where Windshield Obstruction is Restricted
States Where There Are No Windshield Obstruction Laws (or Mention)
- North Carolina
As you can see, not everything is cut-and-dry when it comes to the legality of radar detectors. Though they are legal in most states, placing them on the windshield is not, so you’ll have to find somewhere else to put it. Laser jammers, however, which intercept cops’ laser gun signals that read your speed, are very illegal and constitute a hefty fine if you’re found using one. Just stick with the radar detector, slow down, and you should be fine (unless you’re in Virginia or D.C.).