As a military recruiter, one of the most common questions you may receive is, “Can I join the military if I have a felony?” The military recruiting felons is a bit hard to understand.
This question doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer. Every branch of the military is different when it comes to military recruiting and they all have specific standards. However, there are regulations in every branch when it comes to felonies.
The U.S. Military maintains a very high moral standard for recruiting and doesn’t allow most felonies. However, there are situations where a felony may be allowed, such as if you were a juvenile when it happened. If you were an adult when the felony happened, getting into the military may be much harder, or impossible.
Regardless, it comes down to the offense you committed and how long ago it happened. You will want to tell your military recruiter about your felony during the process. There is no such thing as “sealed” when it comes to the military and “expunged” doesn’t work either.
Waivers for Some Offenses
While not all felonies or crimes have a waiver to allow you into the military, some do. You can get a waiver, in some cases for:
- Minor non-traffic related charges
- Civil offenses
- A solo serious misconduct charge
- A combination of misdemeanor and minor charges
The military will also look at the number of charges, along with the combination of the charges before deciding if a wavier will be granted.
Crimes Disqualifying You from Service
While a waiver may be available for some crimes, others will disqualify you from serving in the military. Those crimes include:
- Drug-related crimes
These are very serious and often violent crimes that will keep you out of the military for good.
Why Sealed and Expunged Don’t Matter
You may have been a teen when you committed the felony, which means your record could be sealed. However, nothing is sealed from the U.S. Government and a felony will be found by the military if you try to join.
You could get your felony expunged from your record, but the government and military will still find out about it. This won’t help your case if you have a serious offense on your record.
Military Recruiting Felons: Four Categories of Offenses
Not all branches of the military handle crimes the same way, but the Army uses four categories of offenses. These include:
- Those with six or more minor traffic offenses (where the fine was more than $100 per offense)
- Three or more minor non-traffic offenses
- Two or more misdemeanors
- One or more felonies
If you fall into one of these categories, you will need a waiver to join the Army. This is basically the case in any branch of the military, although other branches may be stricter.
Waiver for Serious and Violent Crimes Do Happen
Sometimes, the military will grant waivers for more serious crimes, such as assault, burglary and drug possession. The Army and the Marine Corps did this back in 2008 with the Army granting 511 felony waivers, which was up by nearly double from the year before. The Marines also offered 350 waivers.
The Army has made it clear they will never issue waivers for some offenses including drug trafficking, alcoholism, and sexual violence.
More Waivers Now than Before
The number of felony waivers has gone up and the Army believes it’s necessary. They believe the larger number of waivers is due to the way the mainstream has changed. This isn’t just for felonies, but also for medical issues, such as obesity and asthma.
The amount of time that has passed since the crime also matters. For example, if you have been convicted of two or more DWI/DUI offenses, you will have to wait 12 months from the date of the last conviction.
Be Honest with your Recruiter
If you want to make sure you don’t enlist, lie to your recruiter about a felony or another criminal offense. Even if you were arrested, but not changes, you still need to report this to your recruiter. Give them the 100% truth because if you get caught telling a lie, you will likely not have a chance of joining the military.
A few other crimes that will disqualify you include:
- Getting drunk or being on drugs during the enlistment process
- Getting kicked out of the military for alcohol/drug abuse
- Three or more drunk driving convictions
- Being on parole or probation
- If you have a history of selling or using marijuana
You cannot use the military to escape pending charges. If you try to join, they will find out before you make it into the enlistment process.
Make sure you’re fully honest if you want to join the military. Felons may still have a chance, but you cannot lie about your crimes or you will lose your opportunity before the military recruiting process starts.