Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License? -
Legal Issues

Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License?

Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License 2

Felons with an interest in assisting with emergency services may want to look into operating a ham radio. This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get a ham radio license.

  • What Is a Ham Radio?
  • What Is a Ham Radio License?
  • What Is Required to Get a Ham Radio License?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action

What Is a Ham Radio?

A ham radio is a radio that allows a person to talk to people much like on a CB radio with many more frequencies allowed. Ham radios have been in existence for over 100 years. The term, ”ham,” is often used to designate a person who is an amateur at doing something. Ham radio operators are often involved in requesting assistance in local or area emergencies.

What Is a Ham Radio License?

A license is issued by a state agency to practice a profession and is required in order to call oneself a licensed professional. A license shows that someone has specific knowledge or skill necessary to do a job. Typically, these types of credentials are obtained after completing certain education.

Licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation. A license is:

  • Awarded by a government licensing agency
  • Give some legal authority to work in an occupation
  • Requires meeting certain criteria such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam

Founded in 1914, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) regulates ham radio licenses. The ARRL is also called the National Association for Amateur Radio in the U.S. Currently, there are more than 158,000 members.

Operating a ham radio can be difficult; using a radio to transmit long distances can be complicated. Therefore, a license is required to operate a ham radio. Anyone with a ham radio can listen over the ham radio frequencies, but a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required by anyone wanting to transmit over these standard ham radio frequencies.

There are three types of ham radio licenses:

  • Technician license – This provides transmitting privileges on VHF and UHF radio bands. These offer communications for a few miles up two of hundreds of miles. This is the basic license obtained by passing the entry-level exam.
  • General license – This creates additional transmitting privileges on multiple high frequency (HF) radio bands and can be obtained after acquiring a Technician license.
  • Extra license – This creates additional transmitting privileges on several segments of the HF radio bands reserved exclusively for extra class licensed ham operators and is the highest upgrade to a ham radio license.

What Is Required to Get a Ham Radio License?

It is not difficult to get a ham radio license, which is also called an amateur radio license. Until recently, there was a requirement to know Morse code. To become licensed to operate a ham radio, an applicant must study and pass an exam.

While the FCC still grants ham radio licenses, it no longer administers the licensing exam. Ham radio license exams are given by volunteer examiners (VE). The volunteer exam (VE) coordinator is responsible for certifying and monitoring the volunteer examiners who run the license exam sessions. A licensed exam must be administered by three volunteer examiners.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Beginning in 2017, an applicant must indicate on an application for a ham radio license if he or she has been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony.  The Communications Act obliges the FCC to ask the question on Form 605.

The commission is including a question regarding a felony conviction in any state or federal court. Any applicant answering, “Yes,” must provide an explanation regarding the conviction.

An applicant must then explain the circumstances and provide a statement giving the reasons why he or she believes that granting the application may be in the public interest in spite of the actual or alleged misconduct.

“An applicant must provide sufficient information for the FCC to determine whether there’s a new material and substantial question of fact regarding whether the applicant has the character qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” There is no specific checklist of items, but the information must include:

  • Whether there is a conviction or a guilty plea
  • Time and place of conviction or guilty plea
  • Penalty imposed
  • Whether the penalty has been satisfied completely

Anyone convicted of a felony and later pardoned or whose record has been sealed should include information regarding the pardon as that will be relevant to whether the conviction still makes a candidate undesirable for licensing.

It is important to be honest when applying for a ham radio license. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check this constitutes fraud and is punishable by jail time. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in obtaining a ham radio license, it is essential for felons to be honest about their backgrounds. They are already seen as being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a ham radio license. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is a major challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to get a ham radio license and participate in emergency services. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting additional education could make the essential difference.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. He or she can begin again, live an honest life, and achieve his or her goal no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a ham radio license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

One response to “Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License?”

  1. Amy says:

    Does anyone know if this affects renewal of a ham radio license that you already have. I got my ham radio license in around 1995 as a teen. I had a felony in 2011 is the felony going to keep me from renewing my license My spouse is also a ham and we have spent money on equipment ect

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