This may seem unlikely, but it could happen, after all, consumers don't usually like to hear that their device is at fault. They want the interference stopped and they want it stopped now! If local law enforcement officers are informed, they will know that only the FCC has jurisdiction over interference cases. This chapter clearly details the exclusive FCC jurisdiction. Owning a copy of The RFI Book can help you educate not only your neighbors, but also local law enforcement officials. Even though you may not be at fault in an interference case, never argue with a law enforcement officer. Politely explain the FCC preemption. If an interference case becomes a domestic dispute between two individuals, the interference problem may become secondary. ARRL Volunteer Counsel members can also help explain the legal basis for the interference preemption.
In rare instances, neighbors will threaten amateurs with court action over RFI matters. Even though the FCC has sole jurisdiction over interference, this can create complicated and often expensive legal problems as you defend yourself. If this happens to you, obtain the name of an ARRL Volunteer Counsel (VC) or other lawyer in your area. VCs have indicated that the initial consultation is always without charge. One very good FCC decision on the FCC preemption of RFI is the Memorandum Opinion and Order in WT Docket 02-100. This is the FCC response to a proceeding which sought to regulate RFI in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The County, which includes Annapolis, attempted to regulate public safety/Nextel RF interference. This decision, running 17 pages, is as thorough a statement of FCC RFI preemption as has come from the Commission in many years. While the case law has been consistently favorable, the FCC has been sparse in saying much since a case called 960 Radio in 1985. This is a very good defense tool in RFI cases.
If a landlord threatens eviction over RFI, you need to obtain legal advice. Contact an ARRL Volunteer Counsel member or other lawyer immediately. Lease agreements are private contractual agreements between the landowner and the person leasing the dwelling. Certain restrictions may prohibit antennas and RFI. Even if the agreement doesn't specifically state that antennas are prohibited, the landlord can do whatever he deems necessary to protect his property. PRB-1, the partial preemption of state and local regulations, offers no protection to amateurs who sign voluntary agreements.
If you are involved in any of these "What If . . ." cases, it may be helpful to solicit the help of an attorney, even when the law is on the side of Amateur Radio. While the courts clearly do not have jurisdiction over RFI matters, preparing to appear before a judge is potentially expensive. A VC can often resolve the matter before the amateur is taken to court. Some neighbors call the police and try to have amateurs declared a "public nuisance" for causing interference. Only the FCC has jurisdiction over RFI cases! ARRL HQ can also send you sample RFI court cases.--Regulatory Information Branch, ARRL HQ, firstname.lastname@example.org.