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Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the Matter of
Jason R. Humphreys
File No.: EB-FIELDSCR-13-00008645
NAL/Acct. No.: 201432700003
NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR FORFEITURE
ILLEGAL OPERATION OF SIGNAL JAMMING DEVICE
Adopted: April 23, 2014 Released: April 29, 2014
By the Commission:
We find Jason R. Humphreys apparently liable for a forfeiture of $48,000 for using a cell phone jammer in his car during his daily commute between Seffner and Tampa, Florida. Mr. Humphreys' illegal operation of the jammer apparently continued for up to two years, caused actual interference to cellular service along a swath of Interstate 4, and disrupted police and other emergency communications. Due to the nature and extended duration of Mr. Humphreys' violations, we take an aggressive approach and propose the per violation statutory maximum of $16,000 for each of the offenses -- unauthorized operation, use of an illegal device, and causing intentional interference.
Cell and other signal jammers operate by transmitting radio signals that overpower, block, or interfere with authorized communications. While these devices have been marketed with increasing frequency over the Internet, their use in the United States is generally unlawful. Jammers are designed to impede authorized communications, thereby interfering with the rights of the general public and legitimate spectrum users. They may also disrupt critical emergency communications between first responders, such as public safety, law enforcement, emergency medical, and emergency response personnel. Similarly, jammers can endanger life and property by preventing individuals from making 9-1-1 or other emergency calls or disrupting communications essential to aviation and marine safety.
In order to protect the public and preserve unfettered access to and use of emergency and other communications services, the Act generally prohibits the importation, use, marketing, manufacture, and sale of jammers. The Commission has issued several enforcement advisories and consumer alerts emphasizing the importance of strict compliance in this area and encouraging public participation through the Commission's jammer tip line. We expect individuals and businesses to take immediate steps to ensure compliance and to avoid any recurrence of this type of misconduct, including ceasing operation of any signal jamming devices that may be in their possession, custody, or control. We also strongly encourage all users of these devices to voluntarily relinquish them to Commission agents either in connection with a Commission investigation or by calling the jammer tip line at 1-855-55-NOJAM (or 1-855-556-6526).
On April 29, 2013, the Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) received a complaint from Metro PCS that its cell phone tower sites had been experiencing interference during the morning and evening commutes in Tampa, Florida. Based on the location of the towers and the times that the alleged interference occurred, the Bureau determined that the likely source of the interference was mobile along Interstate 4 between downtown Tampa and Seffner, Florida.
On May 7, 2013, agents from the Bureau's Tampa Office (Tampa Office) initiated an investigation into this matter and monitored the suspected route. On May 7, 8, and 9, 2013, the agents determined, using direction finding techniques, that strong wideband emissions within the cellular and PCS bands (i.e., the 800 MHz to 1900 MHz band) were emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a Florida license plate. On May 9, 2013, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (Hillsborough Sheriff), working closely with the agents from the Tampa Office, stopped the Toyota Highlander SUV. The Hillsborough Sheriff deputies reported that communications with police dispatch over their 800 MHz two-way portable radios were interrupted as they approached the SUV.
The agents from the Tampa Office and the Hillsborough Sheriff deputies interviewed the driver, who identified himself as Jason Humphreys. Mr. Humphreys admitted that he owned and had operated a cell phone jammer from his car for the past 16 to 24 months. An inspection of the vehicle revealed the cell phone jammer behind the seat cover of the passenger seat. Mr. Humphreys stated that he had been operating the jammer to keep people from talking on their cell phones while driving. At the conclusion of the interview, the Hillsborough Sheriff deputies seized Mr. Humphreys' cell phone jammer pursuant to Florida state law. On the following day, May 10, 2013, Metro PCS confirmed that the interference to its cell towers had ceased. On June 14, 2013, agents from the Tampa Office tested the seized cell phone jammer and confirmed that it was capable of jamming cellular and PCS communications in at least three frequency bands: 821-968 MHz, 1800-2006 MHz, and 2091-2180 MHz.
Federal law prohibits the operation of jamming devices in the United States and its territories. Section 301 of the Act prohibits the use or operation of "any apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by radio" within the United States and its territories unless such use is licensed or authorized. Section 333 of the Act expressly states that "[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government." In addition, Section 302(b) of the Act provides that "[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section."
The applicable implementing regulations for Section 302(b) of the Act are set forth in Sections 2.803, 2.805, 2.807, 15.1(c), 15.3(o), and 15.201 of the Rules. Section 2.805(a) of the Rules provides in relevant part that, except in a few narrow circumstances not pertinent here, "[a] radio frequency device may not be operated prior to equipment authorization." In addition, pursuant to Sections 15.1(c) and 15.201(b) of the Rules, intentional radiators cannot be operated in the United States or its territories unless they have first been authorized in accordance with the Commission's certification procedures.
Jamming devices cannot be certified or authorized because their primary purpose is to block or interfere with authorized communications and their use would compromise the integrity of the nation's communications infrastructure. Thus, jamming devices such as the one used by Mr. Humphreys cannot comply with the FCC's technical standards and, therefore, cannot be lawfully operated in the United States or its territories. In short, under Section 302(b) of the Act, radio frequency devices like signal jamming devices are per se illegal for use by consumers such as Mr. Humphreys.
Illegal Operation of Cellular Jamming Device
As discussed above, on May 7, 8, and 9, 2013, agents from the Tampa Office observed an illegal cell phone jamming device in use in the Blue Toyota Highlander SUV operated by Mr. Humphreys. Mr. Humphreys admitted to the agents that he purchased, owned, and used the device to block cell phone communications of nearby drivers for 16 to 24 months. Such operation could and may have had disastrous consequences by precluding the use of cell phones to reach life-saving 9-1-1 services provided by police, ambulance, and fire departments. It also could have disrupted critical communications of first responders driving on the highway near Mr. Humphreys' vehicle. In fact, in this case, Mr. Humphreys' cell phone jammer interfered with police radio communications. Thus, based on the evidence before us, we find that Mr. Humphreys apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Sections 301, 302(b), and 333 of the Act, and Sections 2.805(a) and 15.1(c) of the Rules by operating a cell phone jammer.
Section 503(b) of the Act provides that any person who willfully or repeatedly fails to comply substantially with the terms and conditions of any license, or willfully or repeatedly fails to comply with any of the provisions of the Act or of any rule, regulation, or order issued by the Commission thereunder, shall be liable for a forfeiture penalty. Pursuant to the Commission's Forfeiture Policy Statement and Section 1.80 of the Rules, the base forfeiture amount for (1) operation without an instrument of authorization is $10,000; (2) use of unauthorized or illegal equipment is $5,000; and (3) interference to authorized communications is $7,000. The Commission retains the discretion, however, to issue a higher or lower forfeiture than provided in the Forfeiture Policy Statement or to apply alternative or additional sanctions as permitted by the statute, subject to the statutory cap. For violations of the signal jamming prohibition by individuals, the Act authorizes monetary forfeitures of up to $16,000 for each violation or, in the case of a continuing violation, the Commission may impose monetary forfeitures of up to $16,000 for each day of such continuing violation up to a maximum forfeiture of $112,500 for any single act or failure to act.
In assessing the appropriate monetary penalty for the misconduct at issue, we must take into account the statutory factors set forth in Section 503(b)(2)(E) of the Act, which include the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violations, and with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, any history of prior offenses, ability to pay, and other such matters as justice may require. As explained above, Mr. Humphreys operated a cellular jamming device, which is illegal and prohibited for consumer use in the United States. While jammer operation violations are egregious per se, we note that Mr. Humphreys' conduct was particularly troubling due to the extended duration of the violations (i.e., between 16 and 24 months) and the fact that his operation of the jammer also interfered with police two-way radios used to ensure officer safety and permit coordination between and among officers on-scene and police dispatch. We find these actions to be particularly egregious, warranting an upward adjustment of the base forfeiture amounts consistent with the Commission's approach in Supply Room.
Under this approach, we find that Mr. Humphreys apparently committed three separate violations of the Act and our rules for the jammer at issue. For the unauthorized operation and illegal equipment violations, we will propose a forfeiture of $16,000 per violation, the maximum per violation forfeiture authorized by statute and consistent with Commission precedent. For the companion interference violation, we start with a $7,000 base forfeiture, but conclude that an upward adjustment up to the maximum per violation forfeiture authorized (i.e., $16,000) is warranted based on the facts and circumstances of this case: (a) operating a jammer in frequency bands used by law enforcement officials; (b) causing interference to a potentially very large number of cell phone subscribers (i.e., drivers during rush hour on Interstate 4 between Seffner and Tampa, Florida); and (c) operating a jammer for an extended period of time (i.e., between 16 and 24 months). Therefore, consistent with the Forfeiture Policy Statement, Section 1.80 of the Rules, and the statutory factors discussed above, we conclude that Mr. Humphreys is apparently liable for a total forfeiture in the amount of forty-eight thousand dollars ($48,000).
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 503(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and Section 1.80 of the Commission's rules, Jason R. Humphreys is hereby NOTIFIED of this APPARENT LIABILITY FOR A FORFEITURE in the amount forty-eight thousand dollars ($48,000) for violations of Sections 301, 302(b), and 333 of the Act, and of Sections 2.805(a) and 15.1(c) of the Commission's rules.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 1.80 of the Commission's rules, within thirty (30) calendar days after the release date of this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, Jason R. Humphreys SHALL PAY the full amount of the proposed forfeiture or SHALL FILE a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.
Payment of the forfeiture must be made by check or similar instrument, wire transfer, or credit card, and must include the NAL/Account Number and FRN referenced above. Jason R. Humphreys will also send electronic notification on the date said payment is made to SCR-Response@fcc.gov. Regardless of the form of payment, a completed FCC Form 159 (Remittance Advice) must be submitted. When completing the FCC Form 159, enter the Account Number in block number 23A (call sign/other ID) and enter the letters "FORF" in block number 24A (payment type code). Below are additional instructions you should follow based on the form of payment you select:
* Payment by check or money order must be made payable to the order of the Federal Communications Commission. Such payments (along with the completed Form 159) must be mailed to Federal Communications Commission, P.O. Box 979088, St. Louis, MO 63197-9000, or sent via overnight mail to U.S. Bank - Government Lockbox #979088, SL-MO-C2-GL, 1005 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101.
* Payment by wire transfer must be made to ABA Number 021030004, receiving bank TREAS/NYC, and Account Number 27000001. To complete the wire transfer and ensure appropriate crediting of the wired funds, a completed Form 159 must be faxed to U.S. Bank at (314) 418-4232 on the same business day the wire transfer is initiated.
* Payment by credit card must be made by providing the required credit card information on FCC Form 159 and signing and dating the Form 159 to authorize the credit card payment. The completed Form 159 must then be mailed to Federal Communications Commission, P.O. Box 979088, St. Louis, MO 63197-9000, or sent via overnight mail to U.S. Bank - Government Lockbox #979088, SL-MO-C2-GL, 1005 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101.
Any request for making full payment over time under an installment plan should be sent to: Chief Financial Officer -- Financial Operations, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W., Room 1-A625, Washington, D.C. 20554. If you have questions regarding payment procedures, please contact the Financial Operations Group Help Desk by phone, 1-877-480-3201, or by e-mail, ARINQUIRIES@fcc.gov.
The written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture, if any, must include a detailed factual statement supported by appropriate documentation and affidavits pursuant to Sections 1.16 and 1.80(f)(3) of the Rules. Mail the written statement to Federal Communications Commission, Enforcement Bureau, South Central Region, Tampa Office, 4010 W. Boy Scout Blvd., Suite 425, Tampa, Florida 33607, and include the NAL/Acct. No. referenced in the caption. Jason R. Humphreys also shall e-mail the written response to SCR-Response@fcc.gov.
The Commission will not consider reducing or canceling a forfeiture in response to a claim of inability to pay unless the petitioner submits: (1) federal tax returns for the most recent three-year period; (2) financial statements prepared according to generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP); or (3) some other reliable and objective documentation that accurately reflects the petitioner's current financial status. Any claim of inability to pay must specifically identify the basis for the claim by reference to the financial documentation submitted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture shall be sent by both First Class Mail and Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to Jason R. Humphreys at his address of record.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch