An army career is a common ambition. It is the oldest and most senior service branch of the armed forces. It offers many great benefits that come with building a solid career.
For those with criminal records, there is however something to worry about. Does the army accept felons?
This concern is legitimate. This is because the military has a moral character code. Every service branch has its requirements.
The seven branches of service include:
- The Army
- National Guard
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- Space Force
During recruitment, one must pass the “Moral Character Screening of Credit and Criminal Background”. This assessment is highly rigorous. Having a criminal record often indicates a lack of moral character.
Here we will look at what this means for felons looking to join up. But let us first consider what motivates people to pursue an army career.
Why Join The Army?
People join the army for many reasons.
These can include:
1 Desire to serve their country – Many people are proud and derive personal satisfaction from serving. They want to save lives and defend their country’s interests.
2 Professional training – the military offers financial support for those pursuing higher learning. This can be a big help qualifying for post-military careers.
3 Job and financial stability – The army offers a competitive salary with great benefits. As a government job, you are guaranteed relative job security.
4 Benefits – Besides academic support and competitive pay, the other benefits are good. There is a lifetime pension, medical cover, and provident fund.
5 Health and fitness – Serving in the army practically guarantees you will be fit. One however needs to be meet weight requirements to enlist. A challenge given the high levels of obesity
6 Gain citizenship – Many that join the military do so in hopes that they will earn US citizenship.
Most of these reasons make sense for felons. Being a felon makes it difficult to find work once released. Employers are often biased.
Joining the military can help in regaining their social standing and respect. It can also provide a path towards a lucrative career. A boon when you consider their limited options.
So what can a felon expect during recruitment?
In setting moral standards, the military is trying to avoid future problems with recruits. Like when considering does the navy accept felons, the military is wary of recruits turning into:
- Disciplinary cases
- Security risks
- Disruptive influences to order and discipline
The belief is if you are of good character early on, you will remain the same going forward. Felonies are the biggest concern. They are the worst classification of criminals.
The only way a felon would get into the service is through a waiver. These are not easy to secure for felons. Each branch of service will set its own standards when it comes to waivers.
Once an applicant meets a recruiter, they are interviewed. It is at this stage that a felon should divulge their criminal past.
Failure to do so may seem like concealment. Because this is a government job, it could even lead to criminal charges.
Either way, the recruiter will run a criminal background check. You will want to know what shows up in a background check. That way you can give full disclosure and avoid being viewed as dishonest.
Where there is criminal history, the recruiter will undertake a suitability review process. This is a check against the prevailing list of offenses considered for moral waiver processing.
- 5 or more minor non-traffic offenses
- 2 or more misdemeanor charges
- Combination of 4 or more minor non-traffic or misdemeanor charges
- 1 serious criminal misconduct charge
- 1 felony
If your criminal record exceeds these limits, then the recruiter is unlikely to take up your case.
Let’s now look at the process of requesting a waiver.
Requesting A Waiver
The only person that can help you with a waiver is the recruiter. They are the ones to do the paperwork anyway. How well you convince your recruiter you are redeemable will matter.
They will give you real chances of securing a waiver. Much of this will depend on such factors as how relaxed the service branch has become. If they are not meeting recruiting numbers, they may relax their rules somewhat.
It also depends if the country is at war. Wartime is when more recruits are needed to fill the ranks. This period is best for felons looking to sign up that otherwise qualify.
For the recruit, it is vital to ensure you have a clean record since completing your sentence. Steady work history with good references will help. Seek out testimonials from upstanding members of the community. Think along the lines of a police officer, parole officer, pastor, or teacher.
Demonstrating you have readjusted to civilian life will help. But note that this is no assurance your waiver will be granted.
The decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. And this judgment is not made by the recruiter.
Typically, it is the Recruiting Battalion Commander that decides. Some waivers however need to be approved by the Commanding General of the Army Recruiting Command.
When making a decision they will consider factors such as the nature of the offense and its severity. They will also look at how the person has been rehabilitated and remained crime-free.
It is mostly non-violent felonies that are waived. Some offenses that are highly unlikely to receive a waiver include:
- Assault with a dangerous weapon
- Statutory rape
- Breaking and entry
- Vehicular homicide
- Domestic abuse
- Credit card fraud
Recruiters will be able to access all kinds of criminal databases. They will be able to view juvenile court adjudications, arrest records, and traffic violations. They are also able to view expungements, pardons, and sealed records.
A recruit should disclose all criminal records. Even those they think will not be traced.
Those still on probation or parole are not eligible to enlist. One must fully complete their sentence before seeking to join up. The same applies to those with pending charges.
Note that the waiver process is the appeals process. Once a decision is made, you cannot return for a further appeal. Decisions are final.
How to Join The Army with A Criminal Record?
To boost your chances, be honest from the start. Your recruiter is the best aid in enlisting. Let them know everything about your criminal past.
This will give them a chance to make consultations. They will let you know your chances. If they think you stand a reasonable chance, they can help ready your appeal for a waiver. Ensure you provide all the paperwork they ask of you to avoid delays.
Also, run a background check on yourself. This will ensure you give full disclosure to the recruiter. Include even juvenile records and anything expunged or sealed.
Seek out strong references. Upstanding members of the community are a good source. More so anyone that has had an esteemed military career.
A felon can join the army. Especially if their offense was non-violent. And if there is a high demand for recruits but few people are enlisting. This makes the military more willing to make concessions.
For those wanting to join the army, do not be discouraged. Follow the lead of your recruiter. They are as eager to fill quotas as you are to join. Make clear your strong desire to join and they will do what they can to help.
However, if you do not secure the necessary waiver, do not despair. There are other great career options you can pursue. Check out our list of highest paying jobs for felons for fresh ideas.