Are CB Radios Legal to Use? – Explained

The legality of CB Radios is a very confusing topic for most new CB users. It has been a hot topic of discussion since CB radios came into the market. If you are on the same page, you can find the answer in this article. Our experts discuss when and when not using a CB radio is legal.

You might have seen this news- “Man fined $15,000 for running CB Radio at his home”. Does this news affect you? You might be so far thinking that operating a CB Radio is legal. But after reading this news you will have questions and might be thinking “are CB radios really legal?”. You are in the right place to know more.

Yes, it is legal to operate a CB Radio, as long as you follow the FCC guidelines.

You might be thinking why was this man fined? The reason is that he has not followed the exceptions applicable to the legality of CB Radios.

Let’s find out more in details!

When Are CB Radios Legal and When Not?

The only way you can keep yourself away from legal issues of CB radios is by finding answer to this question. As you know, a CB is intended both for business and consumer use. Also, it does not need a license to operate.

You might be aware that CB Service operates on 40 shared channels either in an AM mode or SSB Mode. The latter offers a greater range and lesser noise as compared to the former. Also, you can find the SSB mode only in high-end CB Radios. It has a couple of modes. They are Upper and Lower Sideband. When in SSB Mode, you can communicate with other SSB CB Radios.

When talking about legality, you should know the age requirement, isn’t it? There is no minimum or maximum age requirement to operate this radio. Anyone can operate and use CB without any license. Formerly, FCC was issuing CB radio service licenses. But, the body is not renewing them now.

When Does Using CB Become Illegal?

When there is no age or other restrictions in operating CB Radio, why was the man fined will be your question. Here is the answer:

The Federal Communications Commission or FCC governs CB and other radios. According to FCC Rules, you can operate a CB Radio, unless you are:

  • An overseas government or a representative of an overseas government. Also, you should not be a federal government agency to run CB.
  • Provided with desist or cease order from FCC to operate.

In these cases, a person or entity cannot operate CB Radios. If operated, the person/entity will face legal issues.

Of course, any person has permission to activate a CB Transmitter at any place. However, the location should have been regulated by FCC for radio communications. However, certain restrictions apply to this permit. The FCC should have certified the CB Transmitter you use. You can get the list of transmitters that FCC permits from the official website of the body.

There is one more rule that makes using CB radios illegal. The FCC does not permit the CB Channels to use a station exclusively. To make the most efficient use of the stations, you should cooperate in the selection and use. Let us consider that you use a CB station to communicate a message. In this case, you cannot converse with another station for over 5 minutes unceasingly. After 5 minutes, you will have to wait for at least a minute before you start another communication.

Rules To Remember for Legal Use of CB Radios

To safeguard yourself from any issues that occur due to improper handling of CB radios, you should remember the following rules. The FCC has framed these rules:

  • Any individual like you or an organization will not get any CB frequency and channel dedicated. For the most part, you can make a CB Radio function on all 40 frequencies and channels that FCC has designated. When you do this, you will have to follow certain precautions:
    • You cannot use channel 9 at all instances. It is dedicated only to emergencies or travel.
    • You can even use any other channel for emergency communications or when you need travel assistance.
    • These channels are shared. So, you will have to always give importance to emergency communications. This rule applies to all channels.
  • The utmost power levels for operating CB relies on the kind of signal you transmit. For instance, SSB mode is permitted up to 12 watts, while AM signals are permitted for an utmost four watts Peak Envelope Power.
  • You cannot raise the power output of the CB unit. You cannot modify the unit internally. Also, you cannot attach any kind of amplifier for increasing the power.
  • You must use only the CB unit that the FCC has certified.
  • When you compare radios, you will find FCC-Certified CB units labeled accordingly by manufacturers.
  • You cannot communicate over 250 km or 155.3 miles away using a CB Radio. But, there will not be an issue if signals naturally skip based on tropospheric conditions.

Are CB radios Legal to use while driving?

You know that the use of mobile phones when driving is an offense in the United States. So, you will naturally think that the use of two-way CB radios is also illegal. But, CBs are not brought under the category of hand-held mobile devices. However, when you use it when driving, you will have to remember certain things:

  • If the use of the radio causes distraction or affects your standard of driving, it is an offense.
  • If you do not have proper control over your driving due to the distraction caused by CB radios, it will be considered an offense.

So, as a personal etiquette, if you feel that the CB radio can distract you when driving, it is better not to use it. Otherwise, if you are confident in your driving skills and nothing can distract you, no issues with CB radio usage when driving.


In toto, using CB radios are legal as long as you follow the rules and recommendations of FCC. If you don’t, it’s an illegal act and will invite hefty fines. Now, you know that the man was fined because he has not followed the rules. Yes, he has used an amplifier. Even after a couple of warnings from FCC officers, he continued to do the same. So, the officer charged him with a fine of $15000, which is triple times higher than the base fine of $5000. The reason is that he overlooked a couple of written warnings from FCC officers. So, you can stay confident about the legality of CB Radios when you use it as per FCC rules.