Ham Radio Felony Project
A letter to attorneys
I am an attorney (but also an extra class ham - callsign KG5JST)who is wanting to help organize other attorneys to provide low (or even better no-cost) legal representation to US Amateur Radio operators who have felony convictions on their record (and will have to answer the newly-added felony question to renew), but also for prospective new operators, but who also have to make their case to the FCC while they should be licensed.
I personally do not believe the felony question should be on the application, because it keeps good people out of this fascinating and rewarding hobby. Yes, many of these folks have done bad things in the past, but they are now trying to rebuild their lives, often dealing with lifelong obstacles to living their lives due to a past mistake that could be decades ago.
Obviously, a radio license is a big responsibility, but surely it is not more than a driver's licence?
In other words, the risks at stake are fairly low.
Moreover, I would argue that anything that we as a society can do to help those with felony convictions reintegrate into society, the better. The statistics make it clear, that ex-offenders with deep family and community connections are less likely to wind back up in jail. Being a part of a hobby like ours gives these folks the chance to make real connections, better themselves, and even do good in the world.
I know some will raise the concern about the exposure of children in the hobby to ex-offenders, but I would point out that any organization that has a youth program is very foolish if they don't run a background check on volunteers. A ham radio license shouldn't be seen as a replacement for that.
Moreover, there could be closely tailored rules to govern certain higher-risk categories (i.e. sexual offenses) such as requiring the approval of a probation officer for those still on probation.
My dream is that there would be a group of volunteer attorneys ready to assist these folks with responding to the "felony question," which in most cases would require drafting a short memorandum explaining why the applicant should be licensed - so if you are an attorney (licensed in any jurisdiction in the US), please contact me.
James M. Branum
Attorney at Law
Information for people with prior felony convictions who are seeking to receive a FCC license
We are currently working on some instructional material on best methods for responding to the "felony question," but for now we do have a limited capacity to provide direct assistance.
Here is what we would need to be able to help you:
- Information on your past offense - what was the crime, what court was the conviction in, information on any sentence served or probation, etc.
- Information on your past or current involvement in ham radio - This can include volunteering, membership in a club, awards, etc.
- Good character evidence - This might include a resume, letters of reference, a list of volunteer activities, etc.
- Information on your license status - If you are applying for your first license, please be sure and let us know when you plan to take the test (we recommend contacting us at least a month ahead of time). If you currently hold a license, please send us your callsign and the expiration date for your license.
After you gather this information, please contact attorney James M. Branum.
Information about Fees
There is no charge for legal fees for drafting the memo to respond to the "felony question" but if you have the means to donate to help fund this work, it is welcomed.
We do reserve the right to charge fees for more involved cases (such as those that require appearing before the FCC), but we will always notify you if this might be the case, and any fees will be done on a sliding-scale based on financial need.