Can You Join The Military With A Felony?

Being part of the military can be considered one of the most fulfilling jobs because you not only get to serve your country but also a guaranteed paycheck with unparalleled benefits compared to any private practice career, benefits such as healthcare and speciality training play an essential role as you serve while others such as education and housing can be used even after retirement. Let us see can you join the Military with a Felony in this article.

Can You Join The Military With A Felony?

Joining The US Military

Joining the United States military is one of the most rigorous and selective processes due to the already laid out requirements that not only mandate a recruit’s top physical health but also mental well-being not to mention the academic qualifications you’ll need to have and tests you’ll have to take as your enlistment assessment is ongoing.

In the United States committing a crime that attracts a sentence of more than a year or capital punishment is classified as a felony with varying classes of the type of felony committed.

Your status as a felon not only limits your career options but also your ability to access immediate employment with most employers as well as your ability to acquire business permits and licenses.

Can you join the military with a felony?

As per title 10 of the United States Code a person with a felony charge is restricted from enlistment unless the secretary authorizes the exception. This authorization to enlist is known as the conduct waiver seeks to find out the nature of the offence and recommendation letters that are proof of your rehabilitation back to society.

In short, yes, you can join the military with a felony; it’ll however be dependent on the nature of your offence since some offences automatically disqualify you from the conduct waiver.

Requirements for eligibility to join the military

  1. You must be a citizen of the United States or have legal permanent residency status.
  2. Have a birth certificate, a valid social security number and a driver’s license. 
  3. You must be between the age of 17-35 to meet the age requirements for the various branches of the military.
  4. Pass a physical screening assessment test which includes meeting the weight and height standards.
  5. Have a high school diploma or an alternative accepted education credential such as a GED certificate.
  6. Meet a minimum score on the ASVAB of between 31-36 depending on the military branch you’re trying to enlist in.

Felony offences that automatically disqualify you from enlistment 

  1. Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired more than three times.
  2. Getting convicted for selling, distributing or trafficking narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
  3. Being charged with any sexual violence charge; rape, sexual assault, and child pornography among others. Being required by law to register as a sex offender will also render you ineligible.
  4. Being charged with murder, kidnapping, manslaughter, aggravated assault and hate crimes.
  5. Being charged with civil felonies such as embezzlement.
  6. Any felonies committed as a minor that had any degree of violence.

Misdemeanour charges also warrant automatic disqualification from enlistment

  1. Although being charged with domestic violence is a misdemeanour you’ll be barred from enlistment due to the Lautenberg amendment that prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from owning and handling any firearms and the amendment by the DoD that prohibits any military branch from enlisting a person convicted of domestic violence.
  2. Having five or more misdemeanour charges for public intoxication, littering, minor vandalism, stalking and public indecency.

If you previously served in the military but received a less-than-honourable discharge you will also be automatically ineligible for a conduct waiver since such a discharge is warranted from disciplinary issues.

Being on parole, probation or still serving your sentence also disqualifies you from applying for the conduct waiver.

Revealing your felony charge during the enlistment process

During your first contact or meeting with a military recruiter, they’ll talk to you about life in the military, the salary and benefits you’ll be entitled to once you join the military and also what to expect during the enlistment process. The recruiter will also conduct an initial screening of you to determine whether you meet the military’s requirements. These requirements include assessing whether or not you are physically fit, mentally capable of handling military work and lastly your conduct. Each of these seeks to determine your eligibility without unnecessarily having to waste time and paperwork when a factor such as height already disqualifies you from applying. When asked about your conduct the recruiter simply wants to know whether you’ve previously been arrested and charged with any crime whether committed as a minor or adult.

The recruiter will also go on ahead to ask about the nature of the crime to determine whether you’ll be eligible for a conduct waiver or to just let you go. 

Concealing or withholding any information about your conduct, any arrests or charges is similar to committing a federal crime. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, applicants to the military must disclose sealed or expunged criminal cases as well as juvenile records.

Failing to disclose this information may lead to a new set of federal charges in a federal court or military court for providing a false statement or fraudulent enlistment.

Your dishonesty might pass the initial screening with the recruiter or the background check since expunged offences will not appear during this stage but will be revealed during the military’s security clearance where all criminal records including those that have been sealed or expunged appear.

It’s therefore in your best interest to not only be honest but also save the recruiter time and unnecessary paperwork.

Hddo the military accesses records of any arrests, charges and convictions

Sealing a record involves keeping a person’s arrest, conviction and incarceration records from the public but may still be accessed by the justice system or any government agency. By sealing your record a potential employer will not know of your history and status as a felon even after conducting a basic background check. Expungement involves destroying any files with your arrest, conviction and incarceration records. Juvenile crimes involve minors under the age of 18 that are often sealed and kept away from public access. Each of these processes seeks to give felons a second chance at rehabilitating into society especially when trying to find housing and employment.

When trying to get recruited into the military any expunged or sealed records will appear during a security check due to the simple reason that the military is a government agency and no record is truly deleted from government records.

Requesting a conduct waiver 

The first step of getting a conduct waiver is being honest with a recruiter who will instantly assess your chances of getting a waiver and let you know the process, and what you’ll need or just let you know that you cannot join because of the nature of the offence.

After your recruiter initiates the process of getting a conduct waiver your conduct violation will be classified as;

  1. Major misconduct offences mostly include all felony offences that include arson, aggravated assault using a weapon, and conspiring to commit a felony among others
  2. Misconduct offences are mostly misdemeanour offences such as reckless endangerment, looting, reselling or leasing weapons among others
  3. Non-traffic offences such as making alterations to a driving license, public intoxication, and damaging road signs among others
  4. Traffic offences such as driving an uninsured vehicle, and disobeying traffic lights among others.

This initial classification is done to align each offence and seek to determine the nature of the offence.

You will be required to submit copies of your;

  1. Arrest records.
  2. Court proceedings.
  3. A detailed affidavit if you were unable to access the above documents due to expungement with proof in writing from the police and the courts 
  4. Letters of recommendation from leaders in your community such as the clergy, school officials and law enforcement who can give a detailed report of your rehabilitation back to society 

During your waiver request, you will be asked about;

  1. Dates such as when the crime was committed, when you were arrested and when you were convicted.
  2. Location of the crime.
  3. The sentence was handed out and time was served.
  4. Your age when committing the crime.
  5. Lessons learnt and progress you’ve made after getting out.
  6. Why you want to join the military and what you bring to the table as an asset.

Once a waiver request has been submitted a comprehensive review will take place

Criteria for approving a conduct waiver 

Remember that the purpose of getting a waiver is to reinstate your eligibility, when applying for a conduct waiver you should always remember that approvals are subjective or personalized based on your crime and the person approving the waiver. The more serious a crime the higher it’ll need to go in terms of rank to get approval.

Based on your attitude when detailing why you were convicted the commander might decide to disapprove the waiver.

Other examples of why your waiver might be rejected include;

  1. The commander’s personal experience with handling conduct waivers. You’re not the only one seeking this conduct exemption the commander or anyone who can approve the waiver has seen dozens of other felons, who showed disciplinary issues and although the waivers got approved they still got kicked out for failure to adhere to the military’s strict rules.
  2. When recounting the nature of the crime your failure to take responsibility for the part you played will lead to rejection.
  3. Being rude, late or having the wrong dress code could disqualify you.

The success rate of conduct waivers in each branch of the military

The army is known for approving most waiver requests while the airforce and the coast guard approved the fewest. Each recruit should ensure they’ve fulfilled all the other eligibility requirements including the ASVAB test with the only hurdle being their moral conduct.

A waiver request can take anywhere between 3 weeks to 3 months to get approval or rejection.

Remember that;

  1. Waivers are valid for 6 months after the date of approval, and getting charged with any offence will need an additional waiver request.
  2. Disapproved conduct waivers will not be eligible for review until after 6 months from the date of disapproval.

Why felons are rejected from serving in the military?

  1. Your felony charges or multiple misdemeanour charges reveal that you are not disciplined enough to follow the law or live harmoniously with others, you cannot, therefore, be expected to abide by the military’s strict code of conduct rules.
  2. The military is not a rehabilitation centre for individuals with questionable moral character, it is a body that protects its citizens with the help of non-combat personnel such as pilots and combat personnel such as enlisted officers who’ve shown a sense of duty and demonstrated their resilience physically, mentally, intellectually and morally.
  3. Enlisting individuals with felony or multiple misdemeanour charges has a very good chance of resulting in a less than honourable dismissal due to discipline issues and violations.
  4. Sexual violation charges automatically result in a rejection since you cannot be trusted to keep the women and children who are the personnel’s family safe.
  5. For individuals seeking to avoid any criminal charges after committing a crime by trying to enlist, it portrays your failure to take responsibility for your actions and can therefore not be trusted with fellow service personnel’s lives.
  6. In times when the military is downsizing its personnel, the accepted number of recruits will also be lower with any felony charges used as grounds for getting rejected.

Bottom line

Each arm of the military has its target in the number of enlisted personnel each recruitment, although these numbers have been dropping it doesn’t mean that the military will drop its requirements and accept everyone in, each of the requirements was put in place after careful consideration on the nature of the work an enlisted officer will have. You should therefore accept that the temporary lapse in judgement might have lifelong consequences that will have a lasting impact on your life after incarceration and unlike films, you cannot avoid serving time by being recruited into the military.

Can You Join The Military With A Felony?

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