can you join the military with a felony
General Military Questions

Can You Join The Military With A Felony?

If you’re thinking about joining the US military, but previously had a run-in with the law, you might have a few questions.

Every day in the United States, thousands of young men and women are arrested and convicted of countless crimes and misdemeanors that can be detrimental to their future potential military careers.

So, can you join the military if you have a felony?

Well, the short answer is just like with anything else military-related: it depends.  Certain types of felonies, including aggravated assault, rape, two or more DUI convictions, drug distribution, and arson, are all examples of the types of felonies that make it impossible for you to join the military.  Other charges, specifically misdemeanors, generally do not provide any sort of problems with military enlistment.

Let’s examine each case specifically and see what the rules and regulations regarding military enlistment are.

Related Article: Which Branch Of The Military Should I Join? 7 Things To Consider

Can I join the military if I have a felony conviction?

It’s possible to join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force, or Coast Guard with a felony conviction.

With that said, it is an uphill battle.

In general, the six branches of the military are looking for candidates with a “sound moral character“.

Often, a felony is looked at as a failure to meet that standard.

As discussed earlier, whether or not you can join the military with a felony conviction really depends on several factors.

They include:

  • What your felony conviction was for.
  • If you are currently on parole or probation.
  • If you’re currently in jail, prison, or facing criminal proceedings.
  • Whether or not your felony conviction was as a minor or legal adult.
  • Your “moral history” (ie, have you committed numerous crimes?)
  • The current needs of the military.

Let’s discuss some of these individually to get an idea of what is an enlistment killer and what isn’t.

What Your Felony Conviction Was For

There are certain crimes and circumstances that, no matter how you go about it, are just not acceptable to the US military.

For these crimes, there is no waiver process or exceptions.

You simply cannot join the military if you committed these offenses.

The crimes vary depending on the branch of service you’re looking to join, but here’s a short list of some felony offenses that will not receive a waiver:

  • Civil conviction of a serious offense with 3 or more other offenses.
  • A conviction for the sale, distribution, or trafficking of a controlled substance (including marijuana)
  • 3 or more DUI/DWI convictions within the last 5 years
  • Positive alcohol/drug test at the time of military application (ie, you show up drunk or high to MEPS)
  • Arson, embezzlement, extortion, grand theft, involuntary manslaughter, rape, or other sex crimes

Again, this all depends on what branch of the military you’re looking to join.

For example, if you’re thinking about joining the Air Force, but have a felony DUI conviction, you likely won’t get in.

However, if you have a DUI on your record, the Marines will take you.

Related Article: Can You Join The Military With A DUI?

If you’re unsure as to whether or not your felony conviction is grounds for dismissal from consideration of joining the military, it’s best to speak with a lawyer or recruiter to get the full details.

Find A Lawyer Near You –

Contact A Recruiter –

What Your Current Legal Status Is

If you are currently on probation or parole for your felony misdemeanor, none of the six branches will grant you a waiver.

Additionally, if you’re currently serving a sentence in jail or prison, or are currently facing criminal proceedings, the military will not grant you a waiver.

You have to be completely off of parole/probation, and not legally incarcerated at the time of application.

If you are caught lying on your application, it is immediate grounds for dismissal.

With that said, it is possible for you to have your probation period reduced in order to join the military.

It all depends on the judge presiding over your case, and whether or not he or she will grant the parole reduction.

Minor Or Adult Felony Charge

Another important consideration is whether or not your felony charge was as an adult or juvenile.

Despite the notion that juvenile records are “expunged,” a military background check will be able to view any and all records as part of their security clearance.

These include both felonies and misdemeanors.

Regardless, felony cases involving juveniles are used in deciding whether or not a candidate can or cannot join on a case-by-case basis.

In some circumstances, it’s actually a way into the military.

In lieu of a jail or prison sentence, a judge may decide that you can join the military instead, but this does not necessarily mean that the service must take you.

Again, it all depends on the circumstances.

Related Article20 Physical Disqualifications at MEPS

How can I join the military with a felony?

Assuming you haven’t been convicted of one of the exceptions listed above, it is possible.

Joining the Army, Air Force, Marines, or Navy with a felony (like a DUI or drug charge) involves several steps, each of which depends on which branch you’re looking to join.

They include:

1. Obtaining a waiver

2. Getting letters of recommendation from character witnesses

3. Going through a “suitability review process”

The Air Force, in particular, can be exceptionally picky about their recruits.

Thus, it can be more difficult to join if you have a felony conviction.

Several of the other branches, specifically the Marines and Army, can lower the standard during times of war.

They have (and continue to) accept candidates with less-than-stellar records, depending on the country’s current war-time readiness levels.

Can I Join The Military With A Misdemeanor?

Unlike felony convictions, having a misdemeanor conviction provides a much easier path to enlistment.

Again, it all depends on the circumstances, as well as the branch of the military you’re looking to join.

Just like with felonies, however, the six branches of the military are all looking for candidates with “sound moral character.”

Some of the misdemeanor convictions that do require a waiver include:

  • Simple assault
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Drinking in public
  • Failure to appear, contempt of court
  • Harassment, menacing, or stalking
  • Littering

And minor convictions that do not require a waiver include:

  • Jaywalking
  • Speeding
  • Seatbelt / Child restraint violation
  • Driving without a license


Whatever your reasons for joining the military are, having a felony hanging over your head certainly isn’t easy.

If you’re concerned about your felony conviction ruining your chances of joining the military, know that there is hope.

There are too many factors involved that affect the outcome, but contacting a recruiter is your best bet.

In summary, if you have a felony DUI or drug charge, it may be possible for you to join the military.

Rob V.
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Thinking about joining the military, but worried that your felony conviction will be a problem? Check out our article detailing what felonies might disqualify you from serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.
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23 Replies to “Can You Join The Military With A Felony?

  1. My son is serving a sentence for agg felony death by vehicle. originally a DWI level 5 but he took a plea bargin for Agg Felony death by vehicle. When he is released he wants to enlist in the military (any branch that will take him) Is it possible to get a waiver for that kind of charge?

    1. That’s a good question, Irene. Unfortunately I don’t really have an answer. Your best bet would be to start contacting various recruiters, they will know for sure.

  2. If you have a specific case or felony conviction / charge that you’re wondering will limit your chances of joining any of the 5 branches of the military, you need to get in contact with a recruiter.

    I’ve had a lot of guys (and a few gals) ask me about whether or not they can join a specific branch with a conviction for DUI, possession, or even child support back payments.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers 🙂

    Your best bet is to contact a recruiter and lay out your case to them. They will know WAY better than I will if you have a shot at getting in.

    Here’s the recruiter locator for each branch:

    Army –

    Navy –

    Air Force –

    Marines –

    Coast Guard –

    Hope this helps and good luck!

  3. My husband is working with a recruiter but we’ve hit a bump which I cannot find an answer to. He was convicted of attempted assault with intent to commit gbh less than murder. A recruiter we’re working with is pretty sure he can get a waiver approved IF we can find out whether my husband will be allowed to carry/possess a firearm after his probation is completed in August. No one seems to have an answer for us on this. If he finds out that he can’t use a firearm, what are his chances of getting in? He can’t get a job right now because of this, which is ridiculous because he didn’t even do anything wrong in the first place (wrong place/wrong time situation).

    1. Hey Cathy,
      If he can’t possess a firearm, I’m afraid his chances are next to none. All military members, regardless of branch, are trained on small arms, and likely need the ability to carry. With that said, the recruiter is 100% on the money here…hell almost certainly be able to get a waiver for that.

      Sorry if that’s not the answer you wanted to here! Best of luck and let me know how it turns out.

  4. My husband was convicted of a sex offense with a girlfriend that misled him 3 months after his 18th birthday the case was reduced down to a misdemeanor. he’s trying to recruit into the army and get a waiver for it .after his case was expunged he got a approved for 3 fire arms . Would you know if my husband would get approved he no longer has to report or indicate about the case to any job and is allowed tto deny it to every job he applies for. Of course with exception for government jobs 7 years have passed he has past since the incident he has a daughter and is married now I’m a really praying hopefully he can get in and put this behind him would you know more or less if he could get in

    1. Hey Nameless,
      That’s a tricky one. My gut tells me he wouldn’t have an issue, but the military can have some weird policies. Your best bet is to contact a recruiter and start going through the process. They will know for sure. Best of luck and keep me updated!

  5. This is my first felony charge but I did a plea agreement to expunge my case I am currently on probation is it possible to ask the judge to join the military or ask for a felony waiver?

    1. Hey Eric,
      Yeah you can most certainly do that. It will likely depend on what the felony was for, and whether or not it’s “excusable”. Since you had it downgraded to a misdemeanor, you shouldn’t have a problem.

    1. Hey Billy,
      It’s definitely possible, but it will depend on several factors, including what branch you want to join, when the felony occurred, and whether or not it’s waiverable. Have you contacted a recruiter yet?

  6. I was recently in prison from 2010 to 2018 for resisting arrest, obstructing, assault. I have 3 felonies such as felonious assault. I am 27 yrs old now can I join the marines!?!

    1. Unfortunately, I believe anything more than 1 felony is ground for dismissal. IE, you likely wouldn’t be able to join the Marines. With that said, anything is possible! Contact a Marine recruiter and lay it all out to them, they’ll know the answer for sure.

      1. Yup your right surprisingly Marines are really tough on moral standing and they are tough on misdemeanor charges depending what they are. Most people think Marines are lenient or that old school felony or jail but that’s far from the truth darn movies portray it too much. Air Force is hard too. National guard is easiest then army or coast guard then marines and navy then Air Force. Now I don’t know about space force but one never knows. Thank you for doing this site and input I like it.

  7. I was convicted of a conspiracy to commit grand theft 7 yrs ago do I have a good chance of getting excepted?

    1. That’s a tough one. It will vary widely based on the branch you’re trying to join, which you didn’t mention. Like I’ve told the others, your best bet would be to contact a recruiter. Anything having to do with a felony is really handled on a case by case basis, and only the recruiter will know for sure in your specific case.

      Sorry if that wasn’t the answer you were looking for!

  8. Hi so I was convicted of a domestic violence charge in 2016 I did not know that this would take my gun rights basically me and my girlfriend at the time were arguing she got upset and called the cops on me I have hired a lawyer to get me a set aside and I’m wondering if this will allow me to enlist ? Airforce please any help with my question is appreciated

    1. That’s a tough one. The Air Force tends to be one of the stricter branches when it comes to felonies, so it would likely be an uphill battle. With that said, it’s certainly possible. I would recommend you reach out to a recruiter directly. They will have the best info available for you.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

  9. I’m 26 year old man. I always dreamed of joining the military. During my early 20’s my life was heading down the wrong path m which eventually resulted in me pleading guilty to 3 counts of distribution (all in charges in one case) my first and only felony charges. I was incarcerated for 27 months (Oct, 2015-Dec,2017). Since released been practically a poster boy for released convicts. Currently still on probation but unsupervised and ends this year. Is there any possibility that I can join any branch at all? Serving my country would help me cope and forgive myself for my past decisions that may of damaged my community. But I don’t want you to sell me a dream. I’m a completely straightforward guy so I need your most honest advise/opinion.

    1. Yeah I don’t sugarcoat things, that never helps anyone. What was your distribution charge for? If it was for a controlled substance (which I’m guessing it was), then unfortunately you will not be able to get a waiver. You still have a fighting chance, though, so I would recommend you visit your local recruiters office to find out for sure.

      Best of luck!

  10. I was arrested last year on a few drug possession charges. Two of them are felonies. All of which came at the same time. I have not received any mail on the proceedings but my girlfriend just received an indictment for her witch named me in the case as well. They ARE NOT Possession with intent. There simple possession, I was hoping I could possibly enlist. From what I have been reading I should be able to get one of the felonies reduced to a misdemeanor but I don’t think I will with the other one. Is there any way I can get in ANY branch

    1. If you have pending charges, I would actually bring it up with your lawyer. Sometimes judges will be a bit more lenient on you if you commit to joining the military. But your lawyer would have to talk to the prosecutor and see if an arrangement can be made.

    2. Can not get in with pending charges. Can not have outstanding debt. You can join some branches with a simple possession but depends on what drug more than likely and how you explain it to your waiver sponsorship. If not us military join the French foreign legion they accept all who do not have felonies acts in their record and can pass the gen PT test. Good luck. Once you’re in a military you might be able to switch back to us military but beats me I just want to help. Since I know what it is like to want to serve your country but have made some dumb choices and had to take long time of my life being persistent and money and going to college but finally i was accepted . I have many years of knowing what the process was like to get through. Unfortunately every year changes on how strict they are with your character and moral standing guidelines fir acceptance. In addition to amount of individuals they need to recruit and if we are in a war time makes a difference. Good luck

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