Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License?

Ham radios (also known as Amateur Radio) have lots of uses. Ham radios communicate without the internet or a cell phone connection. You can communicate with anyone else who also has a ham radio. It doesn’t matter where that person is in the world. You can even communicate with people in space. Ham radios can be crucial in times of disasters when other means of communication are unavailable. Sometimes authorities get help from people with ham radio licenses. Basically, using a ham radio means you have special knowledge of radio technology.

There are lots of social opportunities and ways to volunteer with a ham radio license. It can be a great way to assist your community. You may have lots in common with other ham radio enthusiasts.

Can I get a ham radio license with a felony on my record?

Yes. It’s hard to find specific information about how many licenses are granted. However, there are many reports of people with a felony record getting a ham radio license. The state you live in doesn’t matter. It’s a federal agency that will decide to accept your application. The agency is called the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Ham Radio License Process

You start by passing the licensing test. Then you fill out an application to apply for the license.

There are three levels of licensing. A Technician’s license is a basic license. With this license you can transmit up to a couple of hundred miles. Next, there is a General license. The General license pretty much allows you to do whatever you like. Finally, there is an Extra license. This is for experts. You have to test for these three licenses in order. You can’t take a General license without a Technician’s license. However, you can take the two tests on the same day.

The first step is to take the licensing test. You can study for the test on-line, but you have to take the test in person. Find a place in your area. The AARL ( American Radio Relay League) hosts sites to take the test. Volunteers administer the test. It costs $15 to take the test. You can take the Technician license and the General license on the same day. It will still cost only $15. If you take the General license on another date, it’s another $15.

After you pass the test, you send an application to the FCC. There is one question on the application about a felony record. All it asks is if you have ever been convicted of a felony. You need to answer “yes” to the question, even if your record has been expunged. It’s recommended that you answer “yes” even if you think your felony won’t show up on a background check. At this point all you do is check “yes.” You don’t explain anything about your felony on this application. Usually you pass the test and then fill out the license application. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way you should be allowed to take the test even if the test administrator sees that you have answered “yes” to the felony question.

When the FCC receives an application with the felony question answered “yes”, they automatically put the application status on pending. You have 14 days to send  your explanation. The explanation is separate and in addition to the license application.  The AARL submits your application, but not your explanation. Write a description of your felony, stress that you have served your sentence, and list all the good things you have done since. You can request confidentiality. If you don’t request confidentiality, your application and it’s pending status will be posted on-line.

In summary:

There’s a good chance you can get a ham radio license. It only costs $15 to try.


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