Image of a military tank and artillery. The caption reads "Can you join the military with a felony, answered."

Question: Can felons join the Military?

Short Answer: To many felons surprise the answer is yes, felons can join MOST branches of the military in the United States. Some branches of the military are easier for felons to get into than others though. Recruiting goals also play a part in whether the military will accept a felon or not. You can find information about each branch of the military (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard)  below and if/when they will accept felons.

Can You Join The Military With A Felony Record?

So, you have a felony conviction on your record? Maybe a misdemeanor? You messed up and want to move on with your life. The military looks appealing to you, but you worry that your felony will keep you from being recruited.

Our organization, Help For Felons, has all of the information you must know in order to have the best chance of joining the military with a felony.

Every Branch of The Military is Different

There are five branches of the United States Military. They include the following:

All five branches of the of the United States military have different specifications regarding the recruiting of felons and people with criminal records. For instance, a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction would disqualify you from joining the Air Force, but the U.S. Marine Corps may take you.

Which Branch of the Military is Most lenient with Felony Convictions?

The Army is, in fact, the most lenient when it comes to considering the nature of the crime. Ultimately, the Army is the largest branch and has the most jobs that need to be filled.

It is important to keep in mind that it is possible that the Army could reject you while another branch of the military could accept you into their ranks.

Specific Information About Each Branch of The Military

Below you will find in depth information about joining each branch of the military with a felony.

The stronger the Economy the Better Your Chances Are

Why? Because in todays world most people would prefer a civilian job vs being in the military. When the economy in the United States is strong less people join the military.

The harder the military has finding new recruits the better the chances are of them accepting someone with a felony. Military recruiting goals change yearly, even monthly at times. Use this to your advantage when you are applying to any of the five branches of the military.

Do You Have Any Pending Criminal or Civil Charges Against you?

If you have pending charges then it is not the best time for you to apply to the military. They will not take you period.

Can You Have Your Conviction Expunged or Sealed?

If you can then this is a great option for you. It will improve your chances of being able to join the military by a good bit. For more information visit our page about felony expungement. You should keep in mind that sealed records are visible to the military during a background check. We are unclear at this point if expunged records are visible to the military. One other things that any conviction as a minor will also show up.

Do You Have Multiple Felony Convictions?

If so, this will greatly reduce your chances of joining the military. Multiple convictions are a serious red flag to all branches of the military.

Are You on Probation or Parole?

If you are on either no branch of the military will accept you. If you want any chance of joining you must wait until your sentence is 100% completed.

Moral Waiver and The Military

In order to join any of the five branches of the US military you will need to have something called a Moral Waiver.

The process starts by speaking to a military recruiter. The recruiter will ask you if you have ever been arrested, what crimes or felonies you may have committed, including traffic violations, and ask about any juvenile crimes.

Once you admit to having a criminal or felony history, the recruiter will request a complete background check from local and federal law enforcement agencies.

You will then need to complete the paperwork required to apply for the moral waiver. This paperwork will be filed with the higher ups in the military recruiting offices.

You will need to demonstrate the following within the paperwork:

  • Absence of later violations
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Satisfactory completion of probation or parole
  • Needs of the military

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Moral Waiver

There are several things you can do to greatly improve your chances of being accepted by the military with a felony conviction.

  • Education – The better your grades in high school or college the better you chance you have. GED’s are accepted in all branches of the military.
  • Stay Clean – Do not get back into trouble again or you will have no chance of joining.
  • ASVAB – A high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, Armed Forces Qualification Test (ASVAB AFQT) have a higher chance of receiving a waiver.
  • Physical Qualifications – You must be able to meet the weight requirements to be recruited.

The good news is that the most branches of the military consider the “whole person” concept when approving waivers. It is important to communicate all the good things you have done in your life. Boy/Girl Scouts, Eagle Scouts, community service and volunteering are all positive things that can help you join the military with a felony.

Yes, You Can Join the Military With a Felony

The military can be a phenomenal place for a fresh start and leave that felony behind you. camaraderie can forge friendships that last a lifetime.

The structure and discipline found in the military is also a path to mental toughness and may be why many veterans are so successful in business when they leave the military.

The first step is to speak with a military recruiter in your hometown and discuss your felony or criminal history in detail. The “whole person” concept means that you will be evaluated not just on the bad things you may have done, but the good things as well.

Armed with the knowledge of the process, good timing and a little luck, the Army can be an excellent option for applicants with a criminal history.

Military Recruiters

The following links will take you to each branches recruiting website.