Criminal Record and joining the military

I Have A Criminal Record and I Want To Join The Military

Joining the Military with a Criminal Record

We get this question a lot – especially from people with felonies. A young and brave man or woman wants to join the military and serve their country, but their past life holds a criminal record.

Is joining the United States Armed Forces possible with a criminal record possible?

The short answer is that it depends on what is on your record. Each of the six branches of the United States Military have their own moral character requirements that need to be satisfied to enlist. Having an extensive criminal record can cause you to be rejected from enlisting in the military.

Military recruits must undergo a “Moral Character Screening Of Credit and Criminal Background.”  This process screens for adverse criminal records, credit issues, or juvenile adjudication records.   This screening process is rigorous, and joining the military with a criminal record can sometimes be difficult.  It is important to note that federal law requires disclosure of any past charges or arrests. Under Title 32, Chapter V, Section 571.3(c)(2)(i) of the Code of Federal Regulations, applicants to the military must disclose sealed and/or expunged criminal cases as well as juvenile records. If you are not honest at this stage, you may be committing a federal offense.

Related content: How to Join the Navy or Marines with a Felony

Getting a Moral Character Waiver

Fortunately, a criminal record does not automatically bar you from military service.  An applicant with a criminal record may obtain a something called a “Criminal Record Waiver”.

Generally speaking, criminal record waivers can be used for the following types of offenses, subject to some limited restrictions:

  • Minor Traffic Offenses
  • Minor Non-Traffic Offenses
  • Juvenile Offenses
  • Misdemeanor Offenses

A waiver is not required if you were merely arrested and not charged.  A waiver is also not required if the charges were ultimately dismissed without a finding of guilt.

Related content: How to Join the Army with a Felony

Felony offenses create the greatest difficulty for obtaining a waiver.  The military has their own definition for a “felony” offense.  The federal definition of a felony may be different than the definition in your state of conviction.  Many times there may be a way to reduce your felony offense to a misdemeanor, which may create an easier path to enlistment.

The military can at its own discretion decide if it will approve or deny a criminal record waiver and the military has a specific process it normally goes through when determining whether or not to enlist an individual who is applying with a record waiver. Several factors are considered and unfortunately if you are denied, there is no opportunity to appeal.  It is extremely important to know exactly what you are doing if you are applying to the U.S. Armed Forces with a criminal record.

Take Our Free & Confidential Eligibility Test

As a closing, our team took a quick glance at and this is what the military officially has to say about moral standards of enlistment:

Persons entering the Armed Forces should be of good moral character. The underlying purpose of moral character enlistment standards is to minimize entrance of persons who are likely to become disciplinary cases or security risks or who disrupt good order, morale, and discipline. Moral standards of acceptability for service are designed to disqualify the following kinds of persons:

-Individuals under any form of judicial restraint (bond, probation, imprisonment, or parole).

-Those with significant criminal records.

-Persons convicted of felonies may request a waiver to permit their enlistment. The waiver procedure is not automatic, and approval is based on each individual case. One of the considerations in determining whether a waiver will be granted is the individual’s ability to adjust successfully to civilian life for a period of time following his or her release from judicial control.

-In processing waiver requests, the Military Services shall require information about the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the offense in question; and a number of letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant’s character or suitability for enlistment. Such letters must be from responsible community leaders such as school officials, ministers, and law enforcement officials.

-Those who have been previously separated from the Military Services under conditions other than honorable or for the good of the Service.

-Those who have exhibited antisocial behavior or other traits of character that would render them unfit to associate with military personnel.

Again, for more information or to speak with one of our record expungement experts, please call us at 844-947-3732 or you can go straight to eligibility test.

77 thoughts on “I Have A Criminal Record and I Want To Join The Military”

  1. Matthew Anderson

    Was denied for a purchase of a fire arm. Was also hindered when attempting to enlist for the marine corps due to 3 misdemeanors ony juvenile record one being a Gbi at age 15. No criminal issues at all as an Adult.

    1. Matthew – let us take a look into your situation for you with a free consultation. Call us at 844-947-3732 today.

    2. Give us a call today at 844-947-3732 if you haven’t already so that we can take a look into this for you. Free Consultation and Low Cost Guarantee on all of our services – FYI.

  2. My son been trying to enlist for the last 5years, but still no luck. When he was young and dumb, he was charged with a felony, which was drop to a misdemeanor. Sense then he had made dramatic changes in his life, good ones. Know he wants to serve his country, like many members of his family. But no branch will give him a shot. Any suggestions???

  3. was charged with a felony at 17, two charges were dropped, had one misdemeanor at 16.want to join army but cant any suggestions?

    1. Danny – a lot of the time we get incomplete information in the comment section of our blog. So we are answering questions that may or many not be helpful. Instead of answering right here, we’d like to speak with someone and understand the entire situation before we render any advice. However, we will make it a priority to have more questions answered to the best of our ability. Thanks!

  4. So what can I do if I have a misdemeanor from when I was under 21 if I want to join the military now and I’m 26?

  5. I am 34 yo female who did stupid crap in my early 20’s I have about 8 Misdemeanors from 15 years ago. Since then I have completed college with an associates in health science and an associates in applied science. I hold a property management License and I’m a licensed Phlebotomist. I turn 35 on 1/26/17 which is the enlistment cut off age. I’ve already spoke to a recruiter, but only told him my adult charges (in the last 5 years) of DUS, speeding, and no proof of insurance. what in the world can I do to get in before my cut off. I know hes gonna send me to MEPS soon and I dont know what to do.

  6. I would like to join a the navy. Unfortunately I have a felony 3 reduced to misdemeanor A on my background and the chief of naval recruiting command said that they would still view it as a felony. Is there anything I can do to enlist even if it’s with the army?

    1. Johnny – thanks for reaching out. There may be 1 or 2 things that can be done. Please call us at 844-947-3732 to speak with one of our intake representatives. We should be able to give you a clear answer on the phone – thanks.

  7. My son just turned eighteen. But it’s incarcerated for conspiracy to commit burglary. Also, is facing five felony charges. He wanted to know if there is a chance that in the future he can get it off his record and enlist

  8. I have a felony dui on my record three years cases are interesting to say the least.. I have turned my life around completely and would love to join the army through the woft program to be a hello pilot.. Is there anything I can do to prove my change and dedication? Flying for our armed forces has always been a dream of mine.

  9. hi my brother got caught shooting off a air soft gun out side and a person thought it was at them he was charged n has payed for it dearly he fished probation its been only 2 year or so he wants this more than any thing i need to help him get his dream back please help me

  10. I want to join the guard I have2 burglary charge when I was 14 yrs and mip in 29 would that disqualifie me?

  11. Carl Andrew Augustus

    I got a juvenile unlawful theft charge only time i ever got in trouble would i be able to get into the navy or any other branch ?

    1. Hi Carl – thanks for your comment – depends on which state. Kindly call us at 844-947-3732.

  12. Got possession charges when I was 16 and when I was 18, being an idiot and not learning my lesson. But all my charges ended up getting dismissed. Am 21 now and have been trying to join the military for the last year just to be told they won’t take me after wasting a year of my time. Any suggestions?

  13. I am a prior service Marine who got off active duty in 2004. In 2006 I was convicted of 2 DWI (alcohol), Sine that time I have been sober haven’t drank since. I have the petitions to seal, and expunge the convictions. In the state of Arkansas I would qualify for either one. I am trying to figure out which one would be better for me to have done. Since they have lifted the draw down the window for prior service to re-enter has opened again, I would like to put a package in to go back. I would like to know how it would effect me if I were able to get the convictions either expunged or sealed. Would I still have the opportunity, or what would be my best options to get back in. Thank you for any information you could provide.

    1. TJ, generally having a record fully expunged is better than just a record seal. Unfortunately, we don’t currently offer services in Arkansas.

  14. I am 20 years old with no record except for a few traffic tickets. Last year I was stupid and got involved with the wrong group of people and started doing drugs. My mother marchman acted me for substance abuse and the military can see that on my record. That was the only way I could get help for free before I got deeper into it, since we didn’t have insurance. I wasn’t doing it for that long in the first place. What can I do to join? This is a dream of mine and I don’t want to grow old filled with regret.

  15. Hello.
    I am a 33yr old female hoping to join the Army Reserve. I spoke to a Recruiter about 3yrs ago who promised to a call back and to take the practice tests online. Since then I have had some minor felony charges. I may get a community service at the end of it all. I do have my Bachelors in Healthcare Management and about to start Graduate School next month. Can I get a waiver for this offences? I really do want to speak to a recruiter again and sign up to take the test on time this time, will I be accepted? This is a good opportunity I really don’t want to pass up.
    Also, Will I be able to keep my job when I get in the Army? Thanks

  16. Hello, I’m now 32 and had a evading responsibility guilty in 2010, DUI in 2010, pled Guilty to misdemeanor forgery charge more than 10 years ago . A few years ago I had 9 felony drug charges that were all dismissed entirely. The charges were not reduced or adversely adjudicated. The charges were dismissed in its entirety. Would I be able to join the Navy? I have one year left for my civil engineering degree. Would I be able to join as a Navy officer or in the military at all?

    1. Justin, there are various restrictions on joining the military with a criminal record. Whether you are eligible to enlist will depend on a number of factors, such as the specific rules of the military branch, and the extent of your record. Please contact us to discuss your case and see whether your criminal record qualifies for expungement.

  17. Hello my name is Doug I am 27. I spent 4 years in the United States Marine Corps. I came home from Afghanistan in 2017 and was set up and had a felony put on my record, is there any way of getting that took care of and reenlisting in the military. Please help here

    1. Hey Doug,

      We would really like to help you out! Contact us today to see if you qualify for an expungement or record seal. You may be able to obtain a waiver to re-enlist in the military, depending on the circumstances.

  18. Between the age of 16-17 I was charged for felony robbery. It was taking pizza from a pizza man. Yes the dumbest thing ever. However I am 28 now. And have had no trouble with the law ever since. Is joining the military even possible at this point?

  19. I forgot to mention when I go to do work on base. I have to go through a screening. I put down that I have a felony but they said nothing pops up in their database.

    1. Hi Archie,

      It’s possible, depending on a few factors, that you may still be eligible to enlist in the military. If your juvenile record is not showing up on background checks, it may have been expunged or sealed. Contact our office to check the status of your record, and to see if we can help out!

    1. Hey Andrew, it’s best to check with a representative from the Marines for that answer. However, an expungement or record seal would be very valuable. Please contact us to see if you’re eligible for our services.

  20. I got caught in stolen car possition of narcotics..dropped drug charge wasn’t mine ..felony 6
    Nonviolent case.
    Do i have a chance at all it’s always been my dream to serve my country times 39

    1. Rick, the military does sometimes grant waivers for those with a criminal record. It’s best to consult the specific branch you’re trying to enlist with. If you’d like to otherwise seal or expunge your record, contact us to determine your eligibility.

  21. I was 18 at the time I got 2nd degree theft class c felony but got my record expunged wanna join the army is there anyway of getting around that?

    1. Hi Austin, it’s possible that you can receive a criminal record waiver from the Military. For these matters, you may want to check with a recruiter for more information. Give us a call if you’re having trouble with background checks.

    Interested persons who knows they are qualified to join the US navy should submit there application immediately.
    Recruitment is currently going on into the US Navy recruting command Millington Tennessee. It aims to recruit both enlisted sailors and prospective commissioned officers for the United States navy which you are to send your application immediately to for proper assessment and verification before teaming up with the training processes



  23. My son (age 20) wants to be a Marine. He took the test and passed however; he got into some legal trouble while waiting and received 2 Felony Charges. He was released from jail and was giving 5yrs probation in September 2017. He still wants to serve but with the 2 recent felonies i don’t know if that is possible…Any Suggestions?

    1. Isaac, an expungement or record seal would be beneficial to your son in many ways, if you would like to direct him to our eligibility test. In terms of enlistment, it’s best that he consults with a recruiter or some other expert, or that he look into obtaining a waiver from the military.

  24. Hi, I was 14 yr old when I was accused of “rape” however they brought that case to “ indecent assault and battery”. At the age of 16, I got commited and sent to a juvenile detention. I appealed my case but I lost. I couldn’t speak English during the court dates etc. I didn’t know what was going on in the court house. I taught my self how to speak English while being locked up with the other kids. I kept getting extended Bc I refused to do treatment. I couldn’t describe how I did a crime that I actually never committed. So they released me. I was registering as a level 1 sex offender. I attended 3 colleges and took criminal justice with the hope that one day I would represent my case myself. I never had trouble with the law. I’ve always wanted to join the army. Today I passed the test easily. But “ as of right now you’re unqualified” he said. Tomorrow he will take my finger prints and “look into some more”, is there a chance I could join the army or the Air Force at least with this going on? I never ever committed such a crime. My life has been horrible. And army is at least one of my dreams that I can achieve. Sorry for the long essay please let me know any help or suggestions? Thank you ahead of time

    1. Hi Denis, while some types of crimes are disqualifying, you may be able to seek a criminal record waiver from the military in order to enlist. Check with your recruiter, and give us a call if you’re interested in clearing your criminal record.

  25. hi i am being faced with two felonies relating to shoplifting. it was a one time mistake and I’ve always wanted to be a navy seal. is that still possible?if not could i join the marines? I’m only 16 so i still have two years

  26. I tried joing marines, army, and navy. And they denied me because of my record. My juvenile i have 3 vandalisms and a petty theft. Petty theft was dropped but still shows. Adult record I have a dui suspended license and speeding. Is there anything i can do?

  27. I am having difficulty getting approved. I had one misdemeanor I and trying to get approved, as well as a dependency waiver for my two daughters. I am financially stable and would have my family supported while I was away but I am being denied by my recruiter’s superior

    1. Our firm would be happy to help you move on from your criminal record. Please reach out to a representative for a free consultation.

  28. I have a friend said he join military at 14 in New Jersey in 1989 with his parents signature could this be true?

  29. just got denied even though my felony record was expunged. i want to join the navy but they told me even with an expunged record it still shows up as a felony to the service. my felony was a possession with intent charge so i don’t know if there is any hope to turn my life around.

  30. i’m 19 years old and seek to enlist in the army as a paralegal since my scores qualify me for such. However i have a criminal record from when i was 10-that i had sealed for theft- should i attempt to enlist?

  31. I want to join the Marines but I have 2 misdemeanors for possession of marijuana one ticket for possession of marijuana probably about 5 tickets for speeding also I have driving while license suspended also not showing identification when asked for it and I’m not sure if I have a evading arrest or not but I ran from the cops I think that’s it pretty sure that’s it is there any chance of me getting in it’s always been my dream it’s what I always wanted to do answer back ASAP please I want to serve my country

  32. Can i get back in? I am prior service, got out mid 2017, while i was in the army late 2016 i was arrested for agg assault (domestic). But the DA dropped the charge when spouse didnt want to pursue it. So case was dismissed and found not guilty only had to pay court fees no probabtion or anything.

  33. I have a felony charge when I was a freshman in high school. I earned a ROTC scholarship for college and that was taken away because of this. I tried enlisting in the Army last week and they said they dont have a waiver and wont take me. I want to serve my country I have been clean all this time and will be getting a degree this May.

  34. My grandson is 18 years old and had wanted to join the Navy. Recently he has been in trouble with the law. I don’t know what the outcome will be. But if he has to serve some jail time. Will he be any chance for him to join the Navy at a later date?

  35. Takoda Gohn-Boyd

    I am 14 years old and was on probation for one stupid accident which will never happen again, but i have made a drastic change and i have always wanted to be a navy seal, please help.

  36. I’m 30 years old and had a checkered past since my mid 20’s. I live in Pennsylvania which is a Commonwealth. I did couple stints in county jail and ended up doing a year in state prison I have a few missameanors and one felony. I’ve changed my life around and been wanting to join the military for quite some time. I’m getting off state parole next month is there anything I can do to change this before I reach the cutoff age?

  37. Have an amazing kid who has run into issues because of bad company. I know if he is given an opportunity to serve his country, this will positively turn his life around and he will use his mistakes to educate other kids. He is interested in the Military. I pray God can give him this opportunity .

  38. My daughter was 17 yrs old when she received a felony armed robbery charge which was her first charge ever from hanging with the wrong people. However, she took the ASVAB test when she was in the juvenile for 6 months and wanted to know if she can still go in the military if they allowed her to take the test with the background that she had. Can someone please let us know so she can go see a recruiter to get the ball rolling in the state of Virginia?

  39. LaShawn Burton

    I’m 28 now, at 15y/o i was convicted of a felony. (Burglary) I haven’t had so much as traffic ticket since this arrest. Is it possible for me to enlist into the military?

    1. Hey LaShawn – thanks for reaching out. Each individual’s situation is very different and depends greatly on which branch of the military you are enlisting in. However, having a felony on your records can hurt your chances to enlist and reducing your offense to a misdemeanor might create an easier path to enlistment. For more information on what your options are to better your chances on enlisting, please give one of our representatives a call at (844) 947-3732.

  40. There is so much pain written on here. I have no questions but would like to comment. I have a cousin who has been trying to join the Marines for the past 7 months and had gone to MEPS and was sworn in. Now, he had a criminal record and is having a hard time since they told him he can’t join since it came up during his background check, and to try again in 6 months. I hope you guys and gals have some success stories. I am joining the Army and had a minor hiccup myself. I got a reckless driving case that came up and I am having my attorney settle it, and the Army said it would be fine because I was honest, key word, Honest, about this case and haven’t ruled me out. I got set back about 2-4 months and will hopefully have this settled out within the next few weeks. You all have a lot of heart. Don’t give up. Any means necessary. Good luck out there, and even if things didn’t/don’t come to pass. I hope you all are outstanding civilians today. This is a life-changing decision, not to be taken lightly; so my heart goes out to you all.

  41. In 2007, I was charged and convicted of California PC.647.6 annoy and molest a child under 18. I was 19 at the time, the person I accidentally said it to was 16. I given 57 days in county jail and 3-years summary probation, which I completed in 2010. I managed to get certification of rehabilitation to relieve my duties to registered under PC290 that mandates lifetime registration. Under normal circumstances I would be disqualified for military enlistment because of registering, but being a misdemeanor. How is my chances of enlisting if my convictions is expunged and my duties to registered being terminated by court orders?

  42. Could I get a waiver of some type? I had a misdemeanor with a minor I was 24 she was 16 with consent, had it dropped from a felony and expunged. I want to join the National Guards to serve 4 years for my country. I’m 29 now and I was hoping there was away my past wouldn’t hold me back. It was the only mistake I’ve ever committed in my life my record is clean besides that.

  43. Hello I’ve been trying to join the military since I was younger but I got a felony case in 2009 when I was 18which I was able to reduce to a misdemeanor after completing probation. I also received two misdemeanors dui’s back in 2012,2013. Haven’t been in trouble since and still have been turned down it’s been 10 years since my first offense and 8!yearsof my last offense.

  44. I was arrested when I was 16 for felony weed charges I completed my probation and the charges were dismissed I have not gotten in any trouble since will this causes a issue in joing the army

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.