I plan to buy a single BaoFeng UV-5R radio from Amazon for a costume I plan on doing(the character I am dressing up as is an officer from FX’s Fargo) but I did not plan on using the thing.
I had been looking for a broken one so that perhaps it would be cheaper, but I was unsuccessful and found one for real cheap.
I saw that they’re illegal to use on many frequencies and that if I were to (in my case, accidentally) channel a public safety frequency I could get in serious trouble.
If I don’t ever turn it on or find an okay frequency to put it on, could I still get in trouble? Or would there be a way to program it like an AM/FM radio easily?
I did not mean to get into muddy waters simply from trying to put together a costume!
I feel entirely stupid but would like to seek help from people who know their stuff. Thank you in advance!
There would be no problem just having the radio or even turning the radio on and listening on any supported frequency. You would want to avoid transmitting, however, unless you’re on a frequency that you’re licensed for.
If you’re looking for a Baofeng UV-5R just to use as a prop, check with us. We most likely have some defective or returned product in stock that we could discount heavily.
It is, of course, legal to purchase and own a UV-5R whether one is licensed to use it or not, and there is nothing wrong with using it to receive and listen to frequencies on many of the bands. In fact, the UV-5R has a built-in FM radio which you can use to listen to commercial stations anytime you want, just like any other FM radio receiver.
However, it is not legal to use the radio to transmit on any amateur radio band or frequency without a ham license. In addition, the UV-5R is capable of transmitting on other frequencies for which it is not FCC approved to operate on in the US. If the radio is on and set for a specific frequency, there is always the risk of accidentally “keying up” the radio and transmitting on that frequency (the exception is the built-in FM radio, which is receive only).
Some folks do use the UV-5R as a scanner to receive only and listen in to amateur, weather, marine and local emergency responders, but because it is also capable of transmitting on those frequencies, it isn’t recommended for such use by unlicensed operators. Mistakes do happen, and if caught, the FCC fines are rather severe.
Perhaps a more viable option for you, one that is perfectly fine and much safer for peace of mind, is to use an FRS/GMRS or MURS radio instead. You don’t need a license to operate on FRS or MURS, and some MURS radios have a more “business” or “official” look to them that may suit your costume better. Those are more expensive, but if you want more authenticity, you’ll have it, plus, you can use it legally as a fully functional radio.