Metal Detecting, Archaeology Sites, and the Law

A metal detector user may be in violation of the law if artifacts are recovered during metal detecting, or if archaeological sites are disturbed during metal detecting activities. Artifacts and archaeological sites on federal, state, and local jurisdiction-controlled properties are protected by law. Archaeological resources on private property are also safeguarded by law (e.g., trespassing).

Violation of these laws carries serious consequences including the possibility of fines, jail time, and confiscation of the metal detector and other equipment used in the violation (such as vehicles). Other laws may apply including theft, destruction of private or government property, vandalism, and driving in prohibited areas.


Laws Regarding Metal Detecting on private property, State property, and Federal property

  • General Overview of laws regarding metal detecting activities on private property and state and federal property. This summary is contributed by the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists

Penalties for Illegal Metal Detecting at Protected Archaeology Sites (Some Examples)

Updated 12/22/2009