Metal Detecting Laws For Beginners

Published by Carolyn Yohannes on 09/07/17

If you’ve been bitten by the metal detecting bug and are searching for great hunting sites beyond your own backyard, then it’s important that you know the metal detecting laws surrounding your new hobby. Where will you search next? And how do you know that it’s legal to dig there? It’s crucial that you know the answers to these questions and more before you set out hunting.

Metal Detecting Laws: Where to Dig

If you don’t know where to begin, here’s a list of some places you may find some hidden treasures to get you started:

  • Beaches and shorelines
  • Local parks
  • School playgrounds
  • Old churches
  • Abandoned homesteads
  • Private property
  • War battle sites

Doing some research into your town’s history will help you find some promising places. You may find that the sites you’re interested in are public ground and think that it’s OK to hunt there, but there are some considerations you need to think about before you break out your shovel. You can read more about where to metal detect here.

Before You Dig

Don't Break Laws

Don’t Break Laws

Before you start hunting and digging holes, you need to be sure you won’t be breaking any laws. While metal detecting is a great hobby for a variety of reasons, the downside is that if you don’t play it safe, you could find yourself in some trouble.

If you haven’t obtained permission to dig the site where you are hunting, you may be looking at harsh fines, misdemeanors, or even felony offenses where you could end up in jail. And you can’t plead ignorance, so you have to know the laws about where it’s legal to dig and where it isn’t.

As you become more experienced detecting and you talk with other detectorists, you will probably hear about people who skirt the laws and play it dangerously to find treasure. Don’t fall victim to that type of detecting – even though it may be tempting. The odds really are not in your favor.

Instead, find out as much as you can about metal detecting laws in your area and always get permission to hunt and dig a site before you start swinging your metal detector.

Know the Local Metal Detecting Laws

Your best course of action when nailing down a site to dig is to always inquire before you start. If you are considering private property, the metal detecting laws are pretty simple – you can usually hunt if you have the permission of the property owner. There are exceptions though, for example if the site is an historical or archaeologically significant site, you cannot dig there.

Detecting In Local Park

Detecting In Local Park

When the site you are considering is government-owned, you have to talk to officials before you start digging as there isn’t always consistency in what is allowed and what isn’t. While you may have gotten permission to hunt one government-owned site, that doesn’t always mean that you can legally search another.

The rules for detecting on city properties can also differ from city to city. While one municipality may allow detecting in its local parks, another may not. You may find that some post signs about the legality of detecting in certain areas. That’s great if it’s spelled out for you, but if it’s not, don’t dig until you have permission.

It’s no different when you want to hunt schoolyards – gaining permission is essential. You can start with officials at the particular school, but it may be easier to go straight to the superintendent’s office for permission. You may be able to obtain the go ahead for all the school in the district that way.

Fortunately if you want to metal detect on the beach it’s typically allowed. Most beaches allow you to search because digging in the sand is what people do there. Just be aware that if the beach you intend to search is part of a state or federal park, you have to get clarification from governing officials.

Search Smart

The main thing to remember is that a little bit of research and obtaining metal detecting permission is the name of the game for this hobby. It’s sometimes a hassle, but in the end, it’s worth it. You may find valuable treasure and you won’t get in trouble doing it.

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