Can You Join the Army with a Felony Record

can you join the military with a felony

A felony conviction may prevent a person from enlisting in the American Army. Like the other military branches, the Army cadre seeks applicants who uphold moral character requirements. If you have a felony conviction, you might not be up to par. Provided they meet the other mental and physical qualifications, convicts may enlist in the army if the service agrees to relax its recruiting standards.

Thousands of young men and women are detained and found guilty of numerous crimes and misdemeanors daily in the United States, which may negatively impact their possible military careers afterward.

The quick answer for can you join the military with a felony is that it depends, just like anything else military-related. 

What is a Felony?

Any criminal offense sentenced to one year or more in prison is generally considered a felony. It frequently entails acts of violence and is regarded as hazardous or damaging to society. Aside from being among the most serious crimes a person may have done, felonies also include first-degree murder and arson.

Depending on the nature of the act and the punishment, felonies have various categories in many states. If a felony is not assigned a letter grade in the section defining it, it is provided with the following classification:

  • Class A: If the maximum sentence is life in prison or the maximum punishment is death.
  • Class B: If the maximum penalty imposed is 25 years or longer.
  • Class C: If the maximum sentence allowed is ten years or more but less than twenty-five years.
  • Class D: If the maximum penalty is five years or more but less than ten years.
  • Class E: If the maximum penalty is greater than one year but less than five years.

Some states, however, do not categorize felonies. Therefore, each crime is considered separately while sentencing.

Why do felonies matter?

The military holds that your moral character is vital to your ability to perform your military duties. The military established some ethical standards for recruits to reduce the likelihood of security and discipline problems.

Several felonies can prevent someone from joining the military, such as:

  • Statutory Rape
  • Assault with a lethal weapon, including domestic violence
  • Breaking and entry
  • Repeat incidents of drunk driving
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Credit card fraud

In some circumstances, the military will offer a recruit a waiver, allowing them to enlist despite a conviction; however, if you have been found guilty of any of these crimes, you are not eligible for any waiver.

A felon who is out on parole or probation, incarcerated, or whose criminal case has not been adjudicated also becomes unable to join the military, regardless of the crime they committed.

Role of Felony Waivers

By definition, a felony waiver is a special permit for offenders who are applying to join the military.

According to statistics, the Air Force issues fewer waivers for felonies than the Army. Rumors arise for them to be more selective in who they hire, and it means that having a crime increases your likelihood of entering the Army.

However, all military branches recognize the value of criminal waivers. You will need them to clear up your records and become an applicant. But not all infractions are eligible for waivers, and the need for military personnel also affects their chances of being approved.

Requesting a Waiver

You can find out if a waiver is even an option from your recruiter. First, the Army wants to know that you have successfully adapted to civilian life after serving your sentence or completing your probation. The military will need all the specifics of your offense with character reference letters. The letters must come from an authority figure, like a pastor, a school official, or a police officer.

The military is not required to grant you a waiver, even if you have a compelling justification for your felony conviction and sterling recommendation letters. They must make a decision; it is not something that happens automatically.

What military branch accepts felons?

Criminals who desire to join the US military may encounter several difficulties. Misdemeanors have a chance of joining the military.

Criminals who have committed severe felonies, such as drug trafficking, rape, driving while intoxicated, etc., cannot meet the US Military’s strict requirements. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard are among the five military forces that hunt for offenders with good moral character. Criminals unable to prove their moral integrity and honesty are not allowed to join the US military.

Factors Affecting the Joining of the United States Military

  • The nature of felony conviction
  • If criminals have been given a sentence to probation or parole
  • If criminals are still being prosecuted or incarcerated while serving their sentences.
  • Your age at the time of the criminal conviction

Present Legal Status of the Felon

The present legal status of convict issues for joining the Army include the following:

  1. To join the military, offenders currently on probation or parole need a waiver.
  2. If a felon got incarcerated recently or is subject to legal action, they are not eligible for a waiver.
  3. For a felon to be eligible to apply for military service, they must complete both parole and probation.
  4. Dishonesty prevents criminals from obtaining a good position in the armed forces.
  5. Reducing the length of their probation period allows felons to enlist in the military, which is a benefit.
  6. The judge presiding over the case has the last say about offenders joining the military.

Felons get a fair opportunity to hold respectable posts in the military. Criminals can benefit society by enlisting in the military, and serious offenses prevent convicts from living a life of respect and dignity. 

Before joining the military, felons must complete many exemptions and should adjust to their day-to-day life. Criminals can enlist in the military without a waiver if they commit minor offenses.

Minor or Adult Felony Charge

The age at which one gets charged for a felony (either as an adult or a juvenile) is crucial.

A military background check will be allowed to access any records as part of their security clearance, notwithstanding the myth that juvenile records are “expunged.”

These cover both felonies and infractions.

When determining whether a candidate can join, the cases in which a minor was taken under consideration are based on the facts of the particular case.

In specific cases, it becomes a real entry point for the military. A judge may rule that you can join the military in place of serving a jail or prison sentence, but this does not obligate the service to accept you. Again, everything is dependent on the situation.


Regardless of your motivations, having a felony over your head makes it difficult to join the military.

There is hope if you’re worried that your felony record would make it impossible for you to join the military.

The best action is to speak with a recruiter because many variables can influence the result.

You cannot enlist in the military if you have committed certain felonies, such as serious assault, rape, two or more DUI convictions, drug dealing, and arson. Other crimes, particularly misdemeanors, typically present no issues with enlisting in the military.


Is there a moral conduct waiver option?

You will require a moral conduct waiver if you have a felony on your record and want to join the Army. The “Moral Conduct Waivers” (also known as “Felony Waivers”) offered by the Army is not given on demand. A waiver for moral behavior application must be made, which may take some time.

What happens if I have my record sealed?

A felony gets removed from your record through a civil procedure. Even if you have the felonies removed, the government and military will still see them, making it impossible for you to join. This error is typical. There are no “sealed” records from the US government, and it is a crime to apply for the Army without disclosing any criminal history.

What if a teenager was found guilty and wanted to join the Army after he became an adult? 

You have a better chance of joining the military if the crime were committed when you were minor; nevertheless, as an adult, you may find it difficult or impossible to enlist.

Can a felon be drafted into the military?

Failure to report is against the law. Even if you have a felony conviction on your record, you will still be eligible to receive a draught notification during a time of war and when the draught is in effect.