Can You Join the Military with a Felony?

March 4, 2023
Can You Join the Military with a Felony?

In order to join the military, you have to meet a lot of requirements, one being moral character standards. So, when someone wants to join the military with a felony, a recruiter starts thinking about one thing – liability. Stepping out of line, disregarding authority, and disruptive behavior can be a very real security risk – and it’s not one the military takes lightly.

With that being said, it is still possible to join the military with a felony, but the rules aren’t crystal clear. In fact, it’s an incredibly subjective process and your chances depend on several factors. In some cases, you’ll be offered a waiver and welcome to join the military regardless of your history with felonies.

First and foremost, it’s important that you’re honest with your recruiter. They’ll be able to let you know right away whether or not it’s even possible to obtain a waiver for your particular felony. Since your recruiter will have a lot of say in whether or not a waiver should be given, being honest is the first step toward showing that you’ve learned your lesson and are right for the military.

How to Join the Military with a Felony

The ability to join the military with a felony depends on several factors:

  • What you were convicted of
  • Whether you are currently on parole or probation
  • Whether you’re in jail, prison, or criminal proceedings
  • Whether you were convicted as a minor or as an adult
  • Moral history
  • The military’s current needs

Your Conviction

As we all know, crimes do come in different sizes. Again, it’s hard to say what exactly will be waived but the smaller the infraction, the better. However, there are certain convictions that absolutely exclude you from the right to join the military. They include:

  • Assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Three or more DUIs within five years
  • Sale, distribution, or trafficking of illegal substances
  • Arson, credit card fraud, embezzlement, kidnapping, extortion, grand theft, manslaughter, and rape

Your Legal Status

This is another area where it is cut and dry as to whether you have a shot at joining the military or not. None of the five military branches will grant you a waiver if you are:

  • On parole
  • On probation
  • In jail or prison
  • In the middle of criminal proceedings

You must have completely served your sentence at the time of application to be considered for the military.

Your Age When Convicted

It’s easy to assume that if you have a juvenile felony conviction that the military won’t mind. But again, it all just depends. In most cases, it’s still in your best interest to be honest with your recruiter about any and all run-ins with the law, no matter how young you were.

However, for a minor who has just been convicted of a crime, they are sometimes offered a lesser sentence if they agree to join the military. In many ways, the military is exactly what a troubled kid needs – structure, responsibility, and a sense of purpose.

How to Prove Moral History

Since your felony charge will raise obvious suspicions from your recruiter, you’ll have to work hard to regain some credibility if you want to join the military. If you only have one incident on your record, it will be easier to prove that this was a one-off occurrence.

Even still, you’ll want to collect references from responsible sources like a teacher or employer to attest to your character in order to qualify for the moral character standard of the military.

Current Needs of the Military

The military’s needs could also affect whether or not you can join with a felony.

In times of war when troops are more desperately needed, it is typical that standards become more flexible. Similarly, as policies change and the political climate shifts, you may have better luck joining the military for things like marijuana possession, for example.

Which Branch of the Military Should You Join with a Felony?

All branches of the military are going to see a felony as a red flag but some are going to be stricter than others. The Air Force probably won’t take a recruit with any felony charge unless there are extraordinary circumstances. It’s already pretty tough to join the Air Force so if you’re gunning for acceptance, it’s best to try a different branch.

The Army is most likely to accept recruits with a felony charge. As long as they meet all the other criteria and their moral character is currently in good standing based on their recommendations, it’s not unlikely that you’ll secure a spot in the Army, even with a felony on your record.

Overall, each case is different and there isn’t a clear answer to the question of, “Can You Join the Military with a Felony?” Be honest about your past and let the recruiter help you find a way around the issue. The military can be the perfect way to turn your life around and it’s certainly possible to join even with a felony.

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