Can a criminal record bar you from joining the military?

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

The United States military offers amazing training and career opportunities to those who are enlisted. However, joining the military with criminal baggage from your past can be a bit tricky. The possibility of enlisting for service with a criminal background largely depends on the nature of the offense that got you on the wrong side of the law.

Each of the six U.S military branches has its own set of requirements and moral standards that you must meet to get enlisted. 

How does moral character screening work?

The military is not a career for “those who have nowhere else to go.”  To be enlisted, you need to be of good moral standing. This means that you must not have any serious criminal record. 

A misdemeanor, for instance, may not be as serious a crime as a felony. However, depending on the nature of the misdemeanor, the number of offenses for which you were convicted, and the age at which you committed it, you may apply for a waiver when signing up for military service. 

How to get a moral character waiver

The good news is a criminal record does not automatically prohibit you from serving your country in uniform. Generally, you can obtain a “Criminal Record Waiver” if you want to enlist in the military with a criminal record. Subject to the nature of your case, you may get a waiver for the following:

  • A minor traffic offense
  • A juvenile offense
  • A minor misdemeanor

However, you may not require a waiver if the arrest did not result in any charge or if the charge was dismissed. 

A felony can be a red flag

Some convictions can make it nearly impossible for you to join the military. Here are some of these crimes:

  • Statutory rape
  • An assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Burglary
  • Multiple incidents of drunk driving
  • Credit card fraud
  • Kidnapping

Having a criminal record can impact multiple aspects of your life, including joining the military. Learning about your rights can help inform your defense and preserve your military career options for the future.