You Just Received An FCC Violation Notice – Now What?

You Just Received An FCC Violation Notice – Now What?

The Federal Communications Commission is the United States government agency responsible for policing the radio groups in the U.S. Under authority delegated to the Commission by Congress, it regularly issues “Notice of Apparent Liability”, “Notice of Violation”, and “Notice of Unlicensed Operations” to the public who have run afoul of the Commission’s rules.

Commission fines can range from hundreds of dollars (which is scarce) to many thousands of dollars (which is all too shared).

If you receive a notice from the Commission, there are some basic things you should know and do so that you do not turn a bad situation into a worse situation.

1. Don’t panic.

The fact that you received the Notice of Violation does not conclusively average you have done something wrong, but it does average the FCC has serious questions about you and/or the radio system cited.

2. Don’t freeze.

Like being served with a law suit, you must fully answer the Notice of Violation or risk what amounts to a default judgment against you, and the FCC sending you a Notice of Apparent Liability. A Notice of Apparent Liability is, essentially, a bill for violation(s) that can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

What else can the FCC do? They can order you to shut down your radio system, or cancel your operator’s license. If you fail to follow an FCC order, the Commission may refer the case for arrest and criminal prosecution.

3. Determine, EXACTLY, when your written response to the Commission is due.

The due date, or the number of days you’ll have to respond will be printed on the confront of the Notice. That’s the day the response is due at the Commission…NOT the day you put the response in the mail. Your failure to respond when required can subject you to fines and/or shutdown orders.

4. Read the Notice VERY carefully. Then go back and read it again.

Determine EXACTLY what you’re being accused of…and when! It might be that you’re not the right party based on the alleged violation, or the date or time of the alleged violation might be your defense. For example, were you were cited on a date or time when the radio system was not in operation, or not operating in violation of the Commission’s rules.

5. What you tell the Commission in your response can be used against you.

The choice of words you use (or neglect) in your written response is, consequently, basic, both from an accuracy-of-response standpoint, and from the equally important standpoint of not incriminating yourself unnecessarily.

6. If you don’t know how to respond to an FCC notice, find someone to help you.

Go back and re-read points 1 and 2 of this list. Remember, you owe the Commission a written response within a certain number of days, so every day you delay is a day lost. The quality, accuracy, and effectiveness of your written response will likely decline as the due-date gets closer…and you get more nervous.

If you have legal counsel to deal with FCC matters, contact your lawyer closest. If you do not have counsel, you can find qualified attorneys on the web.

observe: This article, written by a telecommunications attorney licensed in California, is not meant to offer specific legal guidance in any particular matter, or to form an attorney-client relationship. Rather, it is intended to provide general guidance. Check with an attorney for specific guidance in your legal matter. Copyright 2008 Jonathan Kramer, Esq.

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