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Criminal Resource Manual 1058 Penalties
The basic penalty provision for the intentional interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication is five years imprisonment and a fine under Title 18, United States Code. 18 U.S.C. § 2511(4)(a).
The first exception applies to unscrambled, unencrypted radio communications provided that the conduct is a first offense and is not for a tortious or illegal purpose, or purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain. Id. § 2511(4)(b). Under such circumstances, the offender is subject to one year imprisonment and a fine under Title 18, unless the communication is the radio portion of a cellular telephone communication, a cordless telephone communication that is transmitted between the cordless telephone handset and the base unit, a public land mobile radio service communication, or a paging service communication, in which case the offender is subject only to a fine under Title 18.
In addition, under 18 U.S.C. § 2511(5), if the interception is the private or home viewing of a private satellite video communication, or of a radio communication transmitted on frequencies allocated under subpart D of part 74 of the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (which deals with remote pickup broadcast stations), and if the communication is not scrambled or encrypted and the conduct is not for a tortious or illegal purpose or for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private commercial gain, then the offender is subject only to civil suit by the federal government for appropriate injunctive relief. Id. § 2511(5)(a)(i). A second or subsequent offense requires a mandatory $500 civil fine. 18 U.S.C. § 2511(5)(a)(ii).
A further exception to the criminal provisions applies to the interception of an unencrypted, unscrambled satellite transmission that is transmitted (i) to a broadcasting station for purposes of retransmission to the general public; or (ii) as an audio subcarrier intended for redistribution to facilities open to the public, but not including data transmissions or telephone calls. 18 U.S.C. § 2511(4)(c).
It is intended that the private viewing of satellite cable programming, network feeds and certain audio subcarriers will continue to be governed exclusively by 47 U.S.C. § 605. S.Rep. No. 541, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 22 (1986). In addition, Congress intended the phrase "direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain" to have the same meaning as those terms have when used in 47 U.S.C. § 605(b). S.Rep. No. 541, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 21 (1986).
[cited in USAM 9-60.200]
Updated February 19, 2015