Felony Restrictions

Joining the Army

A felony conviction does not automatically disqualify a person from military eligibility; however, military waivers are not handed out willy-nilly although there has been a significant increase in the number of convicted felons who have been admitted into the military in recent years.

Getting a waiver
The waiver procedure is not automatic. The waiver is considered and approved if the applicant has been found to successfully adjust to civilian life after being released from prison and from judicial control.

Military grant waivers can be given for those with criminal records, as well as those with low aptitude scores, and medical problems that would normally make them ineligible for service. These are considered "moral" waivers, and can include traffic and drug offenses, misdemeanors and felonies.

In recent years, more recruits with criminal records, and that includes felony convictions, have been allowed to join the Marine Corps and the Army because the military is in dire need of volunteers due to the war. The Army increased its age limit from 35 to 42 in an attempt to recruit more volunteers.

A controversial issue
Allowing felons to join the military does not get a thumb's up from everyone. There are those who believe this is a lowering of standards, which sends the wrong message to other prospective recruits and endangers the rest of the armed forces while others argue, including the Pentagon, that those men and women who have demonstrated that they are law-abiding citizens and have overcome their past behavior and subsequent mistakes can be an integral part of the military.

In 2006, approximately one in five Army recruits required a waiver; more than half of the Marine recruits needed such, where as only 18 percent of the Navy recruits needed a waiver in 2006 and eight percent of the Air Force recruits were waivered.

Categories of waivers
Moral waivers are divided into six categories by the military including felonies; serious non-traffic offenses and minor non-traffic offenses; serious traffic offenses and minor traffic offenses and drug offenses.

Army Public Affairs officer John P Boyce, Jr. noted in a statement to CNN that young men and women in today's world have a hard time meeting the stringent moral, medical, administrative and aptitude requirements. In fact, Boyce said that only three in 10 Americans of military age can meet the standards. Thus the need to use waivers in response to a society that has changed and where younger people are apt to suffer from medical problems, such as asthma, be overweight or have a criminal history. He said that waivers are not given for sexually violent offenses, drug-trafficking or alcoholism.

Department of Defense data
Data from the Department of Defense reveals that more than 50 percent of those recruited into the Army in 2007 had convictions running the gamut from bad checks, stolen cars, theft, burglary and drug offenses. However, this data also indicated that two individuals were allowed to join the Army following manslaughter convictions; five enlistees had sexual assault convictions and three had been convicted for negligent or vehicular homicide. In 2006, five individuals were allowed to join the military although they had been convicted of bomb threats and terror threats.

The continuing war has stressed the resources of the military thus making it necessary to allow more than 100,000 people who have had difficulties, including felony convictions, to join the military ranks.

If you have a conviction in your past but want to join the military, discuss this with a recruiter. More than likely you will be able to find a way to make it happen.

See also:
Can I get in the army with a misdemeanor assault? External link (opens in new window)