Can a Felon Get a Ham Radio License?

Spending time in prison means cutting social ties. Outside of family, inmates will rarely get visits from friends. This loss can be shattering.

Sadly, even after release, it is still hard to reestablish these connections. People are not often friendly towards felons.

This pushes many ex-cons to consider other ways to interact with people. Outside of work, one good option could be ham radios. But, can a felon get a ham radio license?

can a felon get a ham radio license

A ham radio license is a must to access the radio frequencies allowed for amateur bands.

They are issued through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). To qualify, one must pass a written exam. At the entry-level, you can earn the Technician Class License.

General and Amateur Extra licenses are more advanced. They also come with greater privileges.

So though a felon may pass the exam, they must still be further vetted due to criminal past. Once they send in their application, it is put in pending status.

Before we however discuss more about licenses, let’s look at why this hobby is worth the effort.

Why Become a Ham Radio Operator?

can felon get a ham radio license

As said, felons come from an atmosphere of social isolation. Taking up this hobby is a great way to learn a new skill and make new friends.

There is no limit to who you can communicate with. Signals can be bounced off satellites allowing operators from different countries to communicate. You can even talk to astronauts in space.

During emergencies like natural disasters, communication breakdown is common. Cell phone towers can fail and internet connectivity can be cut. Radio frequencies have however proven highly resilient.

Ham radio operators have proven very helpful in re-establishing lines of communication. These can help in coordinating relief efforts and direct emergency services where needed.

For felons looking to reintegrate back into society, being of help in such situations feels good. Not only does it boost morale, but it can also help give people a better impression of your character. It can give a stronger sense of being part of the community.

It can also be a great learning experience. To earn a basic license will require some level of study. You can further this with additional training in the math and physics of this technology.

You can even learn all about how to build your own electronic equipment.

Ham radios can also be a great source of insider info. The news and stories shared over the radio frequencies can help in a myriad of ways.

From early warning systems on weather changes to notices of traffic accidents. The news shared is often delivered faster this way.

Newer technologies have also made this an affordable hobby. With cheap handsets and other equipment coming from China, even cash-strapped newbies can join in. With time you can upgrade to better gear.

So what does it take to earn a ham radio license?

How to Get a Ham Radio License?

can felon get ham radio license

As mentioned, it is crucial to have a license to use a ham radio. This requisite was put in place to allow for the assembling of experts that could assist in times of emergency.

Despite being a hobby, ham radio operators are recognized as a vital resource when communication suffers. The FCC also designates what frequencies can be used by hobbyists.

In recent years, the FCC has begun to ask applicants if they have ever been convicted of a felony. This pertains to both federal and state prosecuted cases and is on Form 605.

This is when applying to sit the test. Those that confirm they are felons may still sit the test. They may also need to confirm this info when applying to change their call-sign or name.

If a person should indicate “yes”, they are required to explain the circumstances. This includes what happened, where, and when. They must also indicate if they have served their full sentence.

Felon applicants must also give reasons why they feel being granted the license is in the public’s interest. They can also indicate any efforts made to remedy past actions. This is done to establish if the applicant has the necessary character qualifications to hold such a license.

Those that have had records expunged or been pardoned must also divulge this info. They should also indicate that they have been granted this relief. It can help make the case that they are qualified for licensing.

If granted the license, they need not resubmit this with subsequent upgrading.

Being honest is vital when applying for a ham radio license. Any attempt to hide the truth would make a candidate appear dishonest. Background checks are carried out.

There is also the possibility of prosecution if you lie to federal authorities.


Securing a ham license is a great way to get into a valuable hobby. It will open you up to interactions with people from many walks of life.

The amateur radio scene is quite friendly. There is less judgment or interest in people’s personal backgrounds. It is a safe space for many felons that want to make new friends and gain new experiences.

For many felons who are often have limited budgets, it is also an affordable activity. Besides cheap imported equipment, there is also a thriving second-hand market. Here you can get good quality equipment at a fraction of the cost.

The main obstacle to joining may be a criminal past. However, not all felon applicants are rejected.

Proving that you have repaid your debt to society and have turned your life around can help. Factors such as volunteering, holding down a steady job and family ties can help make your case.

Be clear and honest about your conviction and take responsibility for your actions. Emphasize the positive changes you have made.

It costs less than $40 to sit the test and send in your application. It is worth the effort so give it a go.

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