Use of iPhone to Find a Bank to Rob and Use of iPhone Police Scanner App Leads to Conviction (McCarthy v. Dept. Corrections)


A Florida jury found Shola McCarthy of robbing a bank and using a police scanner in violation of 843.167(1)(a), Fla. Stat., which prohibits interception of police radio “to assist in committing a crime or to escape from or avoid… arrest… In connection with the commission of such crime.”

In 2013, McCarthy was driving in Florida and realized he could not pay the tolls. Naturally, he used his iPhone to locate nearby bank locations, pulled up, wrote a note to the teller demanding money, presented it to the teller, and made off with $4,000 (notably more than what he would reasonably need for tolls).

The teller, however, had snuck a GPS tracker in with the money and the police followed McCarthy. As he was driving away, he had opened the Radio Free app on his iPhone to monitor police radio channels to see if the police were looking for him. When the police apprehended him, the app was running and the officer heard the police dispatch on McCarthy’s phone.

Rushing to the end, the jury convicted McCarthy for the robbery and violation of the violation of the scanner statute.

Based upon a recent check of the Apple App Store, Radio Free does not appear to exist however there are several police scanner apps available. That said, and as the Court noted, most law enforcement have moved to digital, encrypted communications (just for this reason).

Case is Shola McCarty v. Secretary, Dept. of Corrections (US DC MD Fla. August 2, 2022).

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